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KCI Airport Task Force Recommends Single Airport Terminal

Julie Denesha

The KCI Terminal Advisory Group recommended Wednesday that the city transform Kansas City International Airport into a single-terminal structure.

The recommendation comes from the 24-member task force Kansas City Mayor Sly James appointed last spring to study the issue. The group has been meeting bi-weekly for nearly a year to consider the airport's future.

“A new terminal by far and away was felt by our group solves all of the issues and gives Kansas City all of the benefits that many other airports have, some of which are rated more convenient than Kansas City,” says David Fowler, who co-chaired the task force.

But many Kansas Citians remain attached to the current design and don't want a new airport.

“I really like the three terminals because it’s so easy to get in and out," says Tamara Demuth, who often flies to Colorado to visit friends and family. "I’m not sure that it will be if it’s one big terminal. I think it’ll be a little harder to get around.”

Bob Berkebile, the task force's other co-chairman, helped design the airport in the 1970s. He says as the task force studied the issue, it became clear to him a single terminal airport was the only way forward.

“We didn’t have a crystal ball 45 years ago when we designed it, and when we opened it 42 years ago, it set a new standard for convenience,” he says. 

There just isn’t room to expand the three terminals to include more security, parking and amenities – and he thinks Kansas City can build a new airport that’s just as convenient as the old one.

“We think they’ll get through security just as quickly," says Berkebile. "There will be some added flexibility and adaptability for checking your baggage, getting your boarding pass and getting the gate – and if there’s a minute or two extra, so be it.”

To be clear, the possibility of a single-terminal airport is still a long way off. The mayor and the city council have to weigh in, and then the issue would go before voters. 

Overland Park resident Lisa Duncan was flying to Washington, D.C., with her family Wednesday to visit relatives. She thinks a single-terminal airport would be easier for her out-of-town guests to navigate when they come to Kansas City.

“I don’t particularly care for the three different terminals," Duncan says. "I would prefer one. I think it would be much easier.” 

But DeMuth, the woman en route to Colorado who likes KCI as-is, disagrees. She says she’s worried the plan for a single-terminal airport will move forward – and make flying out of Kansas City a whole lot less convenient. 

“I just bought a postcard of the three terminals because I don’t think it’s going to be here," she says. "I think they’re going to go to one terminal.” 

Building a new, single terminal facility was previously estimated at a cost of $1.2 billion, the most expensive of the three options the task force considered. But according to the task force leaders, that's savings that could be recouped down the line in lower operating costs.

It will be at least a year before the city council takes any kind of a vote on the recommendation.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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