Task force recommends single terminal for KCI - KCTV5

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Task force recommends single terminal for KCI

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A Kansas City citizens advisory group has recommended replacing the existing three terminals at Kansas City International Airport with a new single terminal. A Kansas City citizens advisory group has recommended replacing the existing three terminals at Kansas City International Airport with a new single terminal.
Nineteen of the KCI Terminal Advisory Group's 24 members voted in favor of a single terminal, subject to more information on cost. Nineteen of the KCI Terminal Advisory Group's 24 members voted in favor of a single terminal, subject to more information on cost.
The advisory group's recommendation is intended to guide the city toward one of its most important civic building projects of the next decade. The advisory group's recommendation is intended to guide the city toward one of its most important civic building projects of the next decade.
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

A task force recommends transforming Kansas City International Airport from three terminals into a single terminal.

The members made their public recommendation at City Hall on Wednesday morning after an analysis of airport configuration options over the past 12 months.

The 24-member group determined that the current configuration does not best serve the residents and visitors of Kansas City. They would like to see construction of a new terminal replacing and eliminating the three separate terminals.

"(Current model) lacks the flexibility that an airport needs to address the next 40 years," said David Fowler, who was co-chairman of the advisory group. "(Single terminal) is clearly the favored alternative that provides the most advantages to our city."

The project is expected to be one of Kansas City's most important public building projects of the next decade - estimated at more than $1.2 billion. Airport officials provided this figure last year. The task force did not estimate the costs and city officials say an engineering and design study would help determine the costs before any construction began.

Because of airline consolidation, just two of the airport's three terminals are in use. A new airport would almost certainly be built on the site of the shuttered Terminal A.

The proposal has divided Kansas City area residents. Those who like the current three-terminal design cite, its ease of use in getting to and from the gates.

Bill Mullins, who supports the current design, said Kansas City has "the shortest walk time from your car to the gate."

Mayor Sly James formed the task force nearly a year ago to analyze the pros and cons of a possible new airport redesign.

However, James is not endorsing the recommendation yet. He said he needs to review the data before he comes to his own decision.

"Now we have something we can talk about. We can talk about facts and data based on what a group of people spent a year pulling together for us ... and have a conversation based on the same borderline," James said.

In the past, James has expressed support for changes to the airport, saying the current design isn't viable for the future.

Wendy Knapp disagrees.

"This one is good," Knapp said. "We have a whole terminal that we aren't using right now. Maybe a little fixing up, but I don't think we need a new airport."

But others say KCI needs more restaurants and comfortable sitting areas for waiting passengers and those picking them up.

"There's too much congestion between the gates and security," traveler David Suttmiller said. "People stepping on people, walking over each other."

After the announcement Wednesday, the Kansas City Aviation Department said they take the advisory group's recommendation seriously.

"We understand the enormity of their task, it is something the city and aviation department have been grappling with for more than 18 years. Their involvement brings an important community voice to an important conversation," they said in a written statement.

They went on to say the aviation department will work with the airlines to develop a "sound financial approach that addresses the community's priorities for a single terminal."

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, Kansas City's biggest airline by far, said they have pledged to work in good faith with James, the city council and the city aviation staff on a solution that best meets the needs of the passengers and the airlines.

The Kansas City Council will now consider whether to pursue the consolidation. It will be a high-stakes decision with much public opposition and much support from key stakeholders. Next year is an election year for James and the council.

"The council takes its role as a decision maker, as opposed to a recommendation taker, extremely seriously," James said. "They may or may not agree with that recommendation."

A public vote could be held in the next 18 months.

The Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association has been pushing for change.

"Once people pass through security into the boarding area, the lack of amenities, lack of size, lack of access to various things, they find that challenging," said Jon Stephens, interim president and CEO of the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association.

One of the reasons why a new design is being considered is that KCI is the first thing travelers see of the city, and some think the airport does not do enough to show off Kansas City.

Some problems the group has identified include aging plumbing, heating and cooling, inadequate close-in parking, lack of security space, shops and food for travelers.

However, much of the public likes the convenience and doesn't want many changes.

"I love being able to get in and out of the airport very easily. For me as a traveler, I like that, but I also know what it could mean for the economy of Kansas City. So I'm on both sides of the fence," Tom Flippo said.

"It was innovative at the time, and it is still the most user-friendly airport I've ever been to. And I've been to a lot. So I don't think we want to lose that. Now, I do think there could probably be something done on some parking issues. And they may be do something to make the transfer between terminals a little easier," Jerry Hughes said.

Passenger fees would likely be used to fund the bulk of the project.

"I feel no rush to build a new airport until there's actually reason to build a new airport," Nathan Oyler said.

KCI opened in 1972. The airport can handle 139 takeoffs and landings per hour. When it comes to delays, KCI ranks among the lowest in the country.

The airport doesn't receive any tax dollars. It is funded solely by airport user fees.

Future decisions on the airport will take place following a comprehensive and independent engineering and design study, implementation of the process defined in the airline lease agreement and city council deliberations.

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