Airlines finally reach agreement on paying for new KCI terminal. Can we build it now?

Animated renderings show proposed approach to new KCI terminal

Animated renderings show the proposed approach to the new terminal at Kansas City International Airport.
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Animated renderings show the proposed approach to the new terminal at Kansas City International Airport.

News that the airlines serving Kansas City International Airport have reached an agreement on paying for a new terminal should be welcomed across the community.

It’s long past time to begin work on the new terminal at KCI.

The agreement, which will be announced Thursday at City Hall, is a significant step forward for the project that Kansas City voters approved in November 2017.

Details of the agreement will be important. There are indications that the airlines have reduced the estimated cost of the terminal to $1.5 billion; the December estimate was roughly $1.6 billion.

Kansas City deserves a world-class airport. As of now, $1.5 billion should provide it.

The cost will still be significantly higher than the $1 billion price tag voters were given in 2017. That’s the result of additional gates, inflation — and the long delay in actually starting work at the airport.

The delay has been disappointing, and the airlines bear at least some responsibility for it. The lack of progress at KCI has led to rumors, misinformation, accusations and mistrust — in the community and on the City Council itself.

But this announcement should alleviate many of those communication problems. The airlines and the city must now be transparent about the scope of the deal, including the average cost for fliers.

They should also be as candid as possible about the time line for building the terminal. The planned 2023 completion date is still an achievable target and should remain the goal.

The government may still have environmental work to do at the airport, which could delay groundbreaking, even with the agreement in hand. And the City Council must fully understand the deal with the airlines before proceeding.

But now, the ball is clearly in the city’s court. Barring unanticipated concerns, the City Council should approve borrowing for the airport, sign the development agreement and implement other commitments from developer Edgemoor Infrastructure within 30 days.

Kansas Citians have waited too long to begin construction at KCI. Contractors are ready to go. The traveling public wants a better airport as soon as possible.

The delays have been frustrating and avoidable. But this agreement signals that we are finally turning a corner on the project, and Kansas City should celebrate that fact.