KCI task force offers bold vision that’s far from a done deal

05/07/2014 6:25 PM

05/07/2014 6:25 PM

The recommendation Wednesday from the Kansas City International Airport citizens task force

offers a bold vision for the future of aviation travel in this area, but building a single terminal to replace the current three-terminal arrangement is far from a done deal.

In fact, I would estimate an actual vote of the public to make any improvements at the airport is at least 18 months months away and perhaps more than two years in the future.

Those are the three key takeaways I have from the announcement

that Mayor Sly James and the task force released at City Hall.

Some people are going to be outraged that the task force did not vote to keep the status quo. But that would have been irresponsible. The 40-year-old facilities definitely need some upgrades.

On the other side, some people are going to think this automatically means the city will default to the $1.2 billion new terminal that Aviation Director Mark VanLoh was trying to ram through the City Council in 2013.

It’s not, and that’s a good thing.

A lot has happened since then, starting with the fact that VanLoh’s credibility has been damaged since it came to light that his plan had not been fully embraced by the airlines that serve KCI. It’s very difficult to see VanLoh being a leader of the department if a single terminal idea ever goes to voters.

Here’s something else crucial that occurred since mid-2013: The citizens task force of 24 people heard from a lot of people who wanted to keep things pretty much as they are at the current KCI — which is very convenient for many travelers.

So the task force was diligent, though not enough for some critics, in looking at key reasons to build a new terminal or at least make major improvements, and make sure the proposal offers much of the same conveniences for passengers.

The end result is a report that definitely leans in favor of a single terminal, as long as it can be afforded.

The essential next step will involve the airlines and Aviation Department working on a new plan for what a new KCI could look like.

That agreement could come by next May or May of 2016. Whatever decision is reached, the task force’s recommendation from Wednesday will play at least some role in influencing the final fate of KCI’s terminals.

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