The debate concerning what to do about Kansas City’s airport goes on. And on.
Once the triple-horseshoe configuration at KCI seemed futuristic. It was convenient. It was architecturally outstanding. It was a landmark. Then things changed.
Pre-boarding security was initiated weeks after the airport’s completion in 1972. This has led to the disruptive multi-gate security divisions and the resultant crowded passenger waiting areas with inadequate facilities and extremely limited concessions. Incoming passengers are forced to navigate these spaces through unmarked exits and milling passengers waiting to board.
Concessionaires are not interested in serving the airport because there is no common waiting area beyond security where enough people gather to make operating viable.
Airlines have adopted hub-and-spoke flight systems, eliminating Kansas City from the possibility of becoming a hub because of the difficulty of changing gates or terminals.
The two operating terminals have become old and dilapidated, and remodeling them would be costly without resolving the basic problems. The third has been closed for lack of demand since 2014.
This has all been obvious for years, as the city council has failed to state the issues clearly and dithered over architectural and financing issues while local infrequent fliers cling to the idea of curbside drop-off, ignoring the operational deficiencies.
Regular fliers will recognize that KCI offers a poor welcome to the city, and that while some other airports have become endless construction sites, we have a chance to get it right.
A new terminal will cost taxpayers nothing. It will either be privately financed as Burns and McDonnell, or one of the other bidders, has proposed, or it will be paid for by airlines in support of airport revenue bonds. It will offer long-term work for local designers and construction crews. Over time, it will improve airline service to Kansas City. It will make a much better first impression on visitors and scouts for convention sites.
The city council has agreed to hold an election to decide any airport proposal. It intends to put the question on the November 7 ballot. The ballot language must be ready by August 24. It is still awaiting more proposals and debating the possibility of public financing.
Those of a certain age can remember when Union Station was actually used for rail travel. 100 years ago, it made Kansas City an important rail hub and brought hundreds of thousands of people through the city every year. It was designed to be an impressive gateway to the community.
Today, airports serve that function. KCI falls far short of what it should be. It is time to get behind a replacement.