The Kansas City International Airport’s future is for many like the bugaboo of this season, a nagging bad cold that won’t go away. About the time you think you’re better the sniffles and congestion bring a cloudiness to winter. Kansas City aviation officials and some city leaders have in recent years pushed for building a new terminal. Opposition has morphed that into studies, public meetings, ongoing discussions and a new posturing that renovation of existing terminals is being considered alongside complete replacement. Many people think spending many millions or even more to replace an airport system we already value above all others in the nation to be a considerable waste. The debate in the past year intensified. A story in The Kansas City Star used the word “raged” regarding debate. That’s pretty accurate when you look at The Star’s letters to the editor on the subject. Now and then you see support. But many letters from travelers and citizens — a pilot weighed in recently — want to leave well enough alone. I would rather see modest upgrades to the existing terminals and system. That’s in part because I’ve not enjoyed in recent years my travels through giant-box terminals. The costs also seem wasteful to me at this time. Earlier this winter an official for Southwest Airlines expressed that airlines had not been adequately consulted about future KCI plans and that the carriers were concerned that major construction could translate into higher costs for them and travelers. Folks who are content with KCI as is saw this as a major turn in their favor. Last week, the issue took another twist when city officials announced a new lease agreement with the airlines for the next two years. The agreement calls for the city and the airlines to work together for a long range plan. Both agree status quo is not acceptable. But they will look at a new terminal or renovation of the old ones. A leadership committee will be appointed including airline and city officials. Various factors including costs and customer service will be considered. This is being applauded. Even a group mounting a serious petition drive that could force voter approval of airport plans is in a negotiation pattern, according to The Star. The average traveler is not jumping up and down. I guess wait and see is the approach, like hoping a winter-cold cough will go away but groggily not being certain. Besides liking the current airport setup far better than the world portals in other cities, there is a distrust that this project is being driven more by bankers, construction industry types and their various interrelated interests than it is by people of this region who make up the bulk of travelers and ticket buyers. For the mood to change, it will take a very sensible, affordable, common-sense plan along with a grassroots belief that regular people haven’t been hoodwinked by the powerful. I’d like to say that the next few years of watching officials iron this out will be interesting, but at the moment it’s just tiresome.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.