Standing Room Only at Graves’ KCI Hearing

The hot debate over whether to build a new single-terminal airport to replace the current Kansas City International Airport brought people to a forum in Riverside Monday.

Rep. Sam Graves, a vocal opponent of plans for a new airport, led a discussion about the airport’s future.

The forum was standing room only before it even got started.

The three-terminal airport, which dates back to the early ’70s, is extremely convenient for travelers who start or end flights in Kansas City.

It’s less convenient for transferring passengers and its design makes operations and security much less efficient. People stuck at the airport during delays often have to leave a secured area to visit a restaurant or Starbuck’s.

It’s also not being used as much as it could be. Less than half of the airport’s gates see regular flights.

Airport officials also point to problems with cracks, leaks and water seepage behind the scenes that will be costly to repair and maintain.

The city has come up with a single-terminal design to replace the airport, but it’s had a tough time getting public support for it.

It didn’t find much support in Monday’s meeting. Only one person at the forum spoke out in favor of the single-terminal design, though most people acknowledged that KCI does need remodeling or renovations.

Opponents of the new design discussed its $1.2 billion price tag and the fact that a new airport would probably be less convenient.

Civic leader Anita Gorman helped pass bonds for Kansas City International Airport more than 40 years ago. She also opposes the single-terminal plan.

“There may be some changes that need to be made there, and I understand that,” she said. “But so far as the principal plan, I don’t think you’ll find an airport that’s better-liked any place in the whole country.”

The public group opposed to the single-terminal proposal, Save KCI, had petitions for people to sign before the forum. Save KCI wants any major changes to the airport to be put to a public vote.

A Kansas City task force is also exploring ideas and options about the future of the airport. It is likely to issue its report late this year or in early 2014.

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