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Airlines Ready For Kansas City Council To Send Single-Terminal KCI To Voters

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The airlines that use Kansas City International Airport want to take their plan for a single terminal to voters in August.

Steve Sisneros with Southwest Airlines says waiting any longer could drive up costs on the proposed $964 million project.

“The airlines have agreed to new terminal concept,” Sisneros told the Airport Committee Tuesday. “The airlines have agreed to take financial risk for the project. The airlines have agreed to back the debt.”

Southwest is Kansas City’s largest carrier and initially didn’t back the single-terminal plan. But as the airlines studied the issue, Sisneros says Southwest concluded it would actually cost more to renovate the old horseshoe-shaped terminals than to build a new one. Representatives for the airlines asked the city council last summer to take the massive overhaul option off the table.

The proposed single-terminal design would have 35 gates capable of accommodating the new, larger planes most airlines are flying. It would also have more options past security for food and shopping.

But many people in the metro love the ease of use of the current KCI.

Councilwoman Heather Hall pointed out that only about 15 to 25 percent of KCI users are actually Kansas City residents who’d be able to vote on the single-terminal plan.

“What is the public relations plan to work with the folks who aren’t going to be happy?” she asked. “Because you’re going to have constituents on either side of this who aren’t going to be happy in August after the vote takes place.”

Architects say the new KCI will still feature curbside drop-off and remain user-friendly.

In a statement, Kansas City Mayor Sly James called the decision ahead “critical” for Kansas City’s future and reiterated that a new terminal would be paid for out of airport taxes.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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