From the beginning, I’ve said that I’m not against a new terminal at KCI per se, but rather that most if not all of the reasons given were insufficient (or untrue) to justify both the incredible expense as well as the loss of KCI’s legendary speed and ease.
It should also be pointed out that the single-terminal design that has been paraded around and motion-rendered for our oooing and ahhing is not even a real design. It was a concept that someone came up simply for the purpose of rendering something sexy for presentation purposes. In fact, a former FAA official expressed concerns to me about the design until I told him it was not the final proposal.
So what ARE the possible alternatives and when do we get to have a discussion about them? At one time is it was said that the average distance from security to the gates in a new terminal would be 1100 feet or about 4 football fields. How do we know this without a real design? Might it be even longer? Is there a solution that keeps what we love about the current design and incorporates some improvements? Has the Aviation Department heard from architects or others with alternative designs and if so, when can we see them?
I think that everyone can agree that we want a solution that:
- Maintains the speed and convenience that we love about the current KCI
- Fixes the shortcomings that affect a relatively small share of passengers
- Does not hang a $50-60 million annual debt payment on an airport with only $106 million in annual revenue
The Mayor’s Airport Terminal Advisory Group is charged with making a recommendation as to whether the above are best accomplished with building a new terminal, by making improvements to the existing terminals or perhaps with some hybrid in between. I think we can also agree that without real, workable alternatives it will be impossible for us to make the best recommendation.
Instead of forcing a false choice between sticking with the existing layout OR tearing down and starting over, why not find a solution that satisfies both sides of the argument?
By adding on to one of the existing terminals, we can add the benefit of a reduced number of security checkpoints and better post-security services while retaining much of the convenience that we all love about KCI.
I propose selecting terminal A, tearing down the existing parking garage (replacing with a taller garage with a smaller footprint) and building a new multi-decked driveway 75 feet or so towards the center of the circle. In the space between the existing building and the new driveway, build an “inner ring” that would contain the check-in counters, baggage claims and security checkpoints. The existing terminal building would now be 100% post security, allowing the removal of the glass partitions surrounding the existing holdrooms as well as providing additional space for services and/or gates in the areas currently used for check-in counters and baggage claims.
If additional gates are needed, concourses could be added radiating from the existing terminal ring.
I created a (VERY) rough sketch of my idea…
Terminal B would need to be demolished to make room for the concourses, but Terminal C could be mothballed until such time where more gates are needed. At that time, a similar renovation/expansion could take place there.
So we have more TSA agents as it stands now. So what, That’s Employment for Kansas Citians!
1.2 Billion could better be spend on such things as Rail Service around KC and in from Topeka, St Joe, Warrensburg, Ottawa, etc.
I have had the “pleasure” of working on a number of major federal contracting (multi-$B) proposals; I quickly observed that if the proposal leadership didn’t quickly start acting the way they would if they had already won the job, they would likely never get their collective heads inside what the customer was looking for.
In these very large scale and continually evolving program management circumstances any group attempting to generate options and then settle upon a recommended strategy must stop thinking like advisers and start thinking like owners. That has not even remotely been the course taken by the ATAG.
What is increasingly evident, to at least this observer, is that the ATAG was given an unduly narrow charter – terminal design is a peripheral issue at best. It is now clear that the present physical plant is at mid-life cycle and in good hands as far as continuing refurbishment and updating. It isn’t broke, its paying its own way, and so hardly needs to be fixed.
The issue that seems the most relevant involves what form of governance best represents the full basin of customers and other stakeholders in the airport. My answer would be a bistate regional airport authority such as Cincinnati and no doubt other such metropolis’ have.
This step forward toward continued stability is quite different and geographically apart from any legitimate desire that KCMO has to add revenue producing economic development on the 8000 acres that are not committed to commercial air transport.
I encourage the ATAG to find its own voice and think about what makes sense for the region so that this particular rabbit hunt doesn’t need to be repeated every 5 years after the latest Aviation Department Director comes along with his eyes firmly set on that next promotion.