Single terminal KCI plan faces sticker stock - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

Single terminal KCI plan faces sticker stock

Opinions are divided about the potential $1.2 billion price for replacing the current three-terminal configuration at Kansas City International Airport with a single terminal.

Critics of the plan say it's too costly and that many people like the current setup, the Kansas City Star reported.

"I haven't seen anything yet why we need to spend all this money," said Dan Coffey, one of the opponents petitioning to put the plan to a public vote. "I'm not saying we don't need to do something up there. I'm not sure we need to do that."

But backers say the three terminals, which were built in the early 1970s, are hopelessly outdated in terms of security configuration and technology.

Aviation director Mark VanLoh said that if the airport doesn't rebuild, it still needs an estimated $600 million in upgrades and renovations in the next few years. He added the public shouldn't overreact to a planning consultant's preliminary cost estimate.

"We think we're going to build it for less, and in talking with the airlines, they think so, too," VanLoh said.

The preferred choice is to build a new terminal where the existing Terminal A is located. In addition to tearing down Terminal A, Terminal B would be torn down once the new terminal opened. Terminal C would remain, possibly for private offices.

Out of the overall budget, $160 million has been budgeted for improvements to the airfield and de-icer systems. Regardless of whether a new terminal is built, those improvements and others to the existing building would have to be done. One issue is that the terminal foundation walls are bowing and leaking, requiring a costly waterproofing that involves tearing out some roads and utilities to get to the foundations.

If the new terminal proceeds, it would be paid for by the airlines, passengers, parking revenues, concessions, other airport tenants and federal funds — not general taxpayer dollars.

The airlines are watching the terminal discussions closely. Right now, KCI remains one of the lowest-cost airports in the country for airlines, and the carriers would like to keep it that way, said Steve Sisneros, director of airport affairs for Southwest, KCI's biggest carrier. Sisneros said Southwest realizes the existing terminals have security and gate flexibility problems that need to be addressed.

But Southwest also has reservations about the potential cost of a new terminal and how it could be financed.

"We're neutral on this right now," Sisneros said. "The size and cost is a concern."

John Green, chief financial officer for the Kansas City Aviation Department, said his preliminary financial models for a new terminal are conservative and assume only about $30 million in federal grants. But even that amount might be a stretch.

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Missouri Democrat who supports a new airport terminal as an economic engine for Kansas City, acknowledges that "the federal government is broke."

And more than that, Cleaver said the support of U.S. Rep. Sam Graves is crucial because the airport is in Graves' district.

"The only way this is going to have a chance, and it's still not guaranteed, is if Congressman Graves is supporting it," Cleaver said.

And Graves, a Missouri Republican from Tarkio, remains adamantly opposed.

"The fact of the matter is, KCI is very unlikely to get any federal money to redesign the airport," spokesman Chris Averill said.

"It seems logical that improvements can be made to the existing facility . without constructing an entirely new terminal. There are many pressing problems in Kansas City, but building a new airport is not one of them."

Any decision on a new terminal is months away, after a citizens advisory task force finishes its analysis late this year, and any election probably would not come until late 2014 or even later.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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