For years now, city leaders have pushed for a $1.2 billion new airport terminal, first proposed by former Aviation Department administrator Mark VanLoh. Taxpayers, reluctant to risk the airport’s unparalleled convenience, have been unwilling to support the proposal. Though Mayor James has said that “doing nothing is not an option,” given the lack of public support and scant business interest in leading a campaign, nothing is exactly what the City is doing.
Mind you, doing nothing is not bad. The Aviation Department is getting on with normal maintenance and airlines have increased flights despite saying they could not or would not do so without a new terminal. A visit to the airport’s news web page shows notices of increased traffic and expanded service despite the lack of agreement on a new terminal. Yet City leaders are adamant about the VanLoh Plan and nothing else, barely even considering the less costly Crawford Plan for the terminals.
During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump included airports in his list of badly needed infrastructure improvements. He has suggested privatizing some roads and bridges, and recently the Cato Institute published a piece on privatizing U.S. airports, in which they wrote,
Airports should be self-funded by revenues from passengers, airlines, concessions, and other sources. Federal subsidies should be phased out, and state and local governments should privatize their airports to improve efficiency, competitiveness, and passenger benefits.
The entire piece is worth reading. After all, if the Aviation Department is as walled off from city finances as city leadership tells us (though not entirely), then what difference would it make if the airport was truly independent? If Kansas City business leaders want more and better amenities and the airlines share that desire, then maybe they should take on the task of running the airport themselves. Certainly, the discussion of privatization is upon us, and there is no reason Kansas Citians should not participate in it.