Developments at Kansas City International Airport are turning boosters into skeptics and skeptics into cynics. The headline from the once boosterish Kansas City Star suggests just how quickly the wheel has turned, “The price tag for KCI terminal, once around $1 billion, is now approaching $2 billion.”
One expects cost overruns on all public projects, but usually those overruns take time to develop and give the taxpayers a chance to receive the bad news incrementally. Not this time.
Writes the Star’s Steve Vockrodt, “The increasing size of a new terminal building at Kansas City International Airport, coupled with financing costs and the prospect for fewer federal grants, is pushing the total cost for the project near $2 billion.”
In the rush to push this KCI turkey onto the citizens’ respective dinner plates, city leaders have given even their ardent supporters little cause for thanksgiving.
There are any number of reasons given for the increased cost, most tangibly the request, reportedly by the airlines, for four additional gates. More square footage means higher costs, and higher costs translate into more financing fees, especially given that certain fedral donations to the project have proven illusory.
In one way or another, of course, these additional costs will find their way to the customer in higher ticket prices and additional fees for parking and the like. In the meantime, certain city council members are growing restive, especially those that are running for mayor, which seems to be most of them.
“It is concerning that we have had the escalation that we have had so quickly before we even tear the place down,” Councilman Scott Wagner told The Star. “At the end of the day, how and in what way the airlines respond to the financing package they are responsible for is going to be very important in whether we should hit the panic button or not.”
Wagner does not say is what the KC “panic button” might look like or what effect pushing it might have. In reality, the time for button pushing on KCI is long past.