KC Council Gets An Earful On New KCI Terminal Plan

May 23, 2017

It was standing room only at a Kansas City Council hearing Tuesday night on the Burns and McDonald plan to build a new KCI terminal.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The standing room only crowd that showed up Tuesday evening to tell a Kansas City Council committee what it thought about a new, single terminal at Kansas City International Airport was pretty evenly divided.

Those representing construction companies, trade unions and economic development organizations want the project to push forward as quickly as possible.

Regular residents of the city were dubious of the plan put forth just a few weeks ago by Burns & McDonnell, the global engineering firm based in Kansas City.

That's despite assurances that Burns & McDonnell will shoulder all of the financial risks. “It accomplishes a new terminal and it does it without any risk at all, of any financial exposure of any kind to the city of Kansas City,” said City Manager Troy Schulte.

Worries that a single terminal won't be as convenient as the current horseshoe configuration is misguided, according to Burns & McDonnell Vice President Mike Brown. In fact, it will be far more pleasant.

“It’s having ample restrooms. It’s having the opportunity to find food," said Brown. "It’s having the opportunity to find all the conveniences that you need in order to have a pleasant and a good flying experience.”

Burns & McDonnell has proposed to not only design the new terminal but along with partners fund the entire billion dollar project privately.

But the citizens in the room weren't having any of it.

“Anytime I see something rushed and jammed through in the dark of night, very quickly without a lot input and a lot of study, particularly with my city government, it raises massive red flags,” said John Murphy with Citizens for a Responsible Government.

Stacey Webb from the Northland told the city council committee that she just doesn't trust them.

“I agree that we’re rushing things through," said Webb. "I know we’ve been discussing this for a long time, but right now we are in a rush mode.”

Julie Harris from Johnson County did say she's in favor of the project. Harris said she loved KCI for a long time but now it's time for a new terminal.

“I think it was the TSA coming into the airport, chopping it up, the curbside use of the airport was not as good. Parking became a problem," said Harris. "And then it’s crumbling, which is an embarrassment.” 

Another public hearing on the plan is scheduled for Thursday at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall downtown.

Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR and the Kansas News Service and is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.