KCI Study: New Terminal Less Costly Than Renovations | KCUR

KCI Study: New Terminal Less Costly Than Renovations

Dec 11, 2015

Credit KC Aviation Department

An Aviation Department Study presented to the full Kansas City Council on Thursday concludes that Kansas City International Airport's three terminals could be replaced for $964 million, approximately $40 million less than the lowest estimate for renovating two of the existing terminals.

The study was finalized and presented at the request of Council Airport Committee chair Jolie Justus, who was emphatic that it must include dollar-figure estimates for both renovation and replacement.

The study was presented in 3-hour illustrated report by Assistant City Manager Pat Kline and consultant Sherri Ernico.

The figures were based on four general concepts: two for renovation and two for the single-terminal replacement concept. City Manager Troy Schulte emphasized that these concepts were created for the purpose of cost estimation and are not finished designs. 

The renovation models came in at $1.04 billion and $1.19 billion, respectively, with the cost difference accounted for by amount of parking garage space and amount and configuration of added terminal space.

The replacement terminal models were priced at $964 million and $972 million. Differences in cost were related to terminal shape and gate and concourse configuration.

Consultant Ernico assured the council that the study was function and data driven.  As a matter of fact, she said, the group gathering the information initially expected to conclude that renovation would be the cheapest approach.  They were “shocked,” she said, when final figures showed that building a new terminal was significantly less expensive.

The report acknowledged that the existing terminals are popular with local travelers and very convenient for many outbound passengers. However, the terminals present numerous problems.  Some, such as the lack of redundant baggage handling systems could be resolved in a renovation of less scope than those in the concept models studied.

But some of the shortcomings, such as too little security check-in space and lack of services beyond the security checkpoints, require additional construction. Altering the basic structure of the building would cost KCI its status as having been “grandfathered in” to current TSA security requirements.

Losing that status would require 100 percent compliance with the TSA space and configuration rules, meaning much more extensive renovation involving considerable new construction.

The study also notes that even with renovation, problems would remain.  For example, with airline traffic growing locally, more flights can mean that an airline has to split its operation into two terminals, resulting in higher operating costs and difficulties for passengers making quick connections with other flights on the same airline.

Also, because of their “horseshoe” configuration, the renovated terminals are not suited to expansion, and if KCI needs more than about 35 gates, construction of an additional terminal could be a necessity in the future.

Some opposition to the report was evident.

Councilwoman Teresa Loar adamantly insisted that the City Council has had too little voice in the project and predicted that bonds for constructing a new terminal would not pass a public vote.

Dan Coffey, a spokesman for a group that considers itself a financial watchdog on plans for the airport raised questions about whether the full cost of demolition of existing terminals was included in the new terminal estimates.

Other new terminal opponents were not satisfied with the explanations offered as to why less extensive renovation models were not included.

Kelly and Ernico emphasized that the actual costs will not come from the general fund, but from airport revenues, meaning the airlines and their passengers end up paying for whatever is done.

After more consultation with the airlines, the Aviation Department will recommend an actual basic design by May 1.

The final decision on their recommendation will be made by the City Council.

Revenue bonds for construction must be approved by the voters.

Steve Bell is afternoon news anchor and business news reporter for KCUR.  He may be reached at 816-235-5173 or by e-mail as steveb@kcur.org