Mayor James speaks on future of KCI single terminal project

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mayor Sly James held a news conference at 2 p.m. at City Hall on the KCI single terminal proposal.

Kansas City firm Burns & McDonnell proposed that it would secure private financing then design and build a new airport terminal, but would require exclusive rights to the project.

James said more firms has expressed their intent to compete for the project.

James said bids will be accepted for the next three weeks at which point the city council will select a firm, and after due process will be put forth to Kansas City voters.

The mayor said that Burns & McDonnell will have the right to first refusal, meaning if another firm proposes a plan, Burns & McDonnell will have the option to match that bid or pass.

James spoke directly to the concerns among many Kansas Citians that enjoy the convenience of the current airport design.

“At least with the proposal that’s on the table, convenience is one of those things, it certainly will not be ignored since that seems to be the main issue on a lot of folks’ minds. So a lot of the tension and effort will be put into making this the most convenient. Also taking advantage of a lot of the technological advances for passengers would be convenient. More places to sit, more places to charge, more places to do things,” the mayor said, citing more restaurants, shops, and cafes inside the secure areas.

James said airlines have expressed their willingness to expand at KCI, but said they are unable to do so with the airport’s current layout.

“The commitments from the airlines was stated in April of ’16. ‘We want to expand here. We want to grow here. We can not grow and will not grow in the current configuration.’ So I think you can make your own conclusions from that,” James said. “The fact that they skipped us and took 12 flights to St. Louis, even though the deplanement costs in St. Louis were twice the deplanement costs here, is something. They have said openly they will not bring transfers to our terminal because the passenger experience is so bad that they don’t want to do it.”

City leaders are aiming to put the project up for voter approval in November.

When posed with the question as to if the city will seek other methods of moving forward with the project if the voters reject it, James was direct.

“We will honor their vote and their commitment, and we will simply have to figure out what to do as airlines make other plans and as we continue to try to figure out what to do with this 40-something-year-old airport.”

The mayor said the city is committed that November date.

“This has been a six-year conversation. It ain’t gonna get any better with age,” James said. “This is not a bottle of wine. This is a conversation that’s been going on since Moby Dick was a minnow, it’s time to go on and do something else.”