The Kansas City Council's transportation committee agreed Thursday that the city should move ahead with building a single terminal airport to serve the area.
The full council is expected to take up the matter next Thursday.
The study confirmed what airport leaders have maintained: a single terminal should be built where Terminal A now is and Terminals B and C closed.
The $1.2 billion project would take at least six years to complete.
Many Kansas City area residents are skeptical of the merger idea and support the current layout.
But critics contend the three-terminal layout creates security challenges and inconveniences for airlines wanting to offer connections at KCI or passengers wanting to connect at KCI. Other inconveniences include restaurants being outside security and fewer bathrooms past security.
Aviation Director Mark VanLoh said Kansas City is losing ground compared to other Midwest airports, such as Branson and Wichita, because of KCI's aging infrastructure. Baggage systems need upgrading, but can't be in the current terminals.
VanLoh said Kansas City could compete to attract an airline's hub if a single airport were built.
"People are still attached to the Kemper Arena or maybe riding horses down Main Street, but we want Kansas City in the forefront of a future American city and be the best," he said. "We'll probably never have any more international service, especially to Europe, which is something we'd like to see. We know we won't have it if we don't do something."
The single-terminal airport would have 37 gates compared to the 90 now offered at the three terminals. Because of airline consolidations and other issues, Terminal B has the majority of flights at KCI, creating traffic and security congestion issues.
City leaders stress the plan doesn't call for any local tax dollars. They're considering asking the public to approve a bond sale, but the bonds would be repaid through federal grants from the Aviation Trust Fund and passenger ticket fees.
Visitors would get service to and from parking garages and lodging establishments at a parking garage rather than standing on concrete islands outside the terminal. A state-of-the-art luggage system would be installed.
Council members plan to soon begin soliciting public input on the proposal.
"No one is going to stand and tell you I guarantee you will have service," VanLoh said. "I can guarantee what you won't have if we don't build anything, and that's efficient security. We'll probably never have any more international service."
Councilman Dick Davis, whose district includes the Northland, said most Kansas Citians don't realize that the airport is aging and needs updating.
But others believe it would be a waste of tax dollar and public revenues.
"This is going to cost a lot of money and this is already something that is very unpopular," said Patrick Sharmi, a concerned citizen.
It would be five to seven years before the renovations are complete. The work could bring 1,800 construction jobs.
Even though it doesn't require any up or down vote from the public because it doesn't use local tax dollars, city leaders said they want public input going forward.
Click here to see the presentation on the One Terminal Proposal.
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