New KCI airport project slowly trudging forward despite delays

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There are more delays in an already long process to get a new single-terminal KCI airport.

Getting Kansas City’s new airport off the ground might seem like failure to launch. But on Thursday, city council members on the airport committee hashed out terms for the next agreements needed to move things forward.

Although it doesn’t appear much work is happening at the site of the new KCI, a lot is happening to get the new terminal built. But getting eight airlines, a city and developer on the same page is no easy task, and the government shutdown isn’t helping.

“We’re going to get there,” Mayor Sly James said.

The nearly $2 billion project being built for a generation is a massive undertaking.

“We’re not putting a McDonald’s at 39th & Main, all right? This is something that has a ton of moving parts,” James said.

And the devil’s in the details. Right now, it’s the arduous work of number crunching.

Five of the eight airlines that fly from KCI have now tentatively agreed to the scope of the project and chipping in their share of $1.64 billion to make it happen.

“We want you to know we’re pushing forward on it. But ultimately, you know, if an airline is going to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to Kansas City, they’ve got their due diligence and they’re not on a specific timeline,” said Patrick Klein, Kansas City’s director of aviation.

The other hurdle left to jump is finding figures on how much each airline is willing to pay for a new consolidated baggage claim.

“We just want the formula to be fair and equitable to all carriers,” said David Long, Kansas City’s deputy director of aviation.

Councilman Jermaine Reed said in conversations he’s had with airline executives, they’re committed to the process and working things out.

But that comment drew fire.

“Well, if you’re talking to airline executives, we need to know,” council member Teresa Loar said.

“First of all, what you’re not going to do is cut me off,” Reed said.

“I just don’t want misinformation said at this table to the audience and to the taxpayers of Kansas City, which has been happening since the beginning of this project,” Loar said. “If  you’re out here talking to airline executives, then we need to know that because there are negotiations underway for a major project in the city. If there are one-on-ones going on, we need to know.”

Despite the brief bickering, the council, developer and aviation department seem confident: The airport is on track for a smooth takeoff and eventual landing, it just might be a long flight.

“At the end of the day there’s nothing that’s strange or weird or scary about this process. Everybody just needs to calm down.  This is a normal business process on a project of this size,” James said.

Some of the key documents in the airport project do need to be signed by the FAA, and there’s question about when that might happen with the current partial government shutdown.

The airport committee meets again in a week to continue sorting it all out.

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