The Buzz

Graves: No reason to trust KC Aviation Dept. on new airport plan

Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo.
Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo.

U.S. Rep. Sam Graves has long been opposed to building a new terminal at KCI. He still doesn’t like the idea. Here’s an opinion piece he recently drafted:

It’s hard to know what — or who — to trust in the debate over Kansas City International Airport.

The Kansas City Aviation Department spent $258 million renovating KCI in 2004. Today, 12 years later, we’re still on the hook for about $200 million of that.

But rather than paying off the airport’s debt, the Aviation Department has their eyes set on spending more money – and convincing Kansas City that their plan is the only one that can save KCI.

With the paint from the $258 million renovations still drying, the Department has a new idea: tear down the three current terminals at KCI, and replace them with a single, $1 billion airport.

Or is it $1.5 billion? It’s hard to tell these days.

The Aviation Department wants to redesign an airport that people like because of its design.

They’re going to complicate KCI when it consistently ranks as one of the most convenient in the country. And in the end, Kansas City will be left with a completely different airport than the one that is so popular today.

But worst of all, the whole process the Aviation Department has engineered has been a façade, at best. The Department is set on building the single terminal, and it’s the only plan they were ever going to accept.

They’ve given lip service to other proposals, but they’ve worked to prevent them from getting a fair shake in the public debate. And they’re willing to do – or say – whatever it takes to get their way.

They claim the single terminal plan is the only option because spending $1 billion to build a new airport from scratch would be cheaper than renovating the terminals we already have. I don’t buy it.

They claim that no tax dollars would be used to fund the project, but they fail to acknowledge the $49 million annually they are relying on from the federal government to complete construction.

These are taxpayer dollars, and I don’t want to see them wasted on an unnecessary project.

And, finally, they claim passengers at the airport will increase by 40% over the next two decades — justifying the need for their $1 billion plan. But not a single independent consultant has confirmed those estimates, and KCI’s passenger numbers are still down from the record of 11.9 million in 2000.

The simple fact is this: we just spent a quarter of a billion dollars renovating KCI a decade ago, and now this Department wants another blank check.

We should be looking to modernize and improve KCI, but there is a better way. It starts with an open, honest, and transparent process. Nothing the Aviation Department has done in the past has given us a reason to trust them.

I don’t know why we would start now.