Task Force Backs Single Terminal For KCI

May 07--Kansas City should replace its existing three terminals with a new single terminal at KCI Airport, a citizens group that has spent the past year studying improvements recommended Wednesday.

Nineteen of the KCI Terminal Advisory Group's 24 volunteer members voted in favor of building a new single terminal, subject to more information on costs.

"Our group has spoken. We have a large consensus to recommend alternative number three (the new terminal,)" group co-chair Dave Fowler announced.

The advice from the KCI Terminal Advisory Group echoes a plan that the city's Aviation Department had put forth but that many in the public have rejected out of love for the current convenient parking-to-gate distances in the three horseshoe terminals.

The citizens' recommendation is intended to guide the city toward one of the most important civic building projects of the next decade. The Aviation Department has said it needs to modernize the 42-year-old airport that many Kansas City residents and travelers adore just the way it is.

Fowler said the group went through a detailed evaluation process that determined a new terminal offered the most adapability and flexibility for future airport industry needs, could create the best gateway impression to the city, would involve the least construction disruptions, and could still be a very convenient airport for the public.

Officials emphasized Wednesday that this is just the start of what may be a two-year process to reach a more detailed plan for the next phase of airport construction. The Aviation Department and the airlines have pledged to collaborate on the best, most affordable plan to move the airport forward by April 30, 2016.

Mayor Sly James said the task force's methodical approach should reassure the public that the airport planning process was not "being rammed down someone's throat." He said he had no idea what the task force members' positions were before he appointed them, except for Kevin Koster, a marketing executive who was adamantly opposed to a new terminal.

Koster said he abstained from voting at the end because he felt the task force still did not have enough cost information to adequately evaluate and compare the different options.

Since last June, the citizens group has met nearly every two weeks, gathering voluminous information on KCI finances, operations, building needs and comparisons with other medium-sized airports. The task force also heard divergent views from airlines, business leaders, security officials, airport consultants and several hundred citizens who turned out for four town hall meetings.

The group concluded that doing nothing was not an option because the airport has too much crumbling infrastructure, aging operating systems and insufficient gate and security space.

The choices before the group were: major upgrades to two or three existing horseshoe terminals but keeping them separate; a new central passenger screening area to connect the existing terminals; or a new single terminal, which would be more expensive but would solve more of the existing airport's deficiencies.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

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