Kansas City Mayor Sly James is covering as many bases as possible to promote a Tuesday ballot measure for a new terminal at the city’s international airport.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James (Image courtesy of Mayor Sly James)

He told Missourinet Kansas City needs to new facility because it’s falling behind other major metro areas for air travel.  “They need a robust international flight,” said James.  “We’re the largest city in the country without a direct flight to Europe.  That’s a problem.”

Estimates for renovating the airport with a new single terminal peg the price at $1 billion.  A campaign supporting the project contends costs would be paid for with no tax dollars, but instead would be financed the fees airlines pay.  Other revenue sources such as parking fees could be used to subsidize the terminal.

Mayor James wants the airport to be an attractive option for airlines to expand their service, thus providing more travel destinations for the city.

“We want to build an airport where the airlines want to bring transfers in, because we know that as many transfers as they may bring in, those planes have to be going someplace else.  And that’s where we get on and go to the next stop.”

According to the website kansas-city-airport.com, the facility’s largest carriers are Southwest Airlines, with 68 daily flights, and Delta Air Lines, which serves 10 destinations non-stop.  It says the top ten destinations from Kansas City International are Atlanta, Denver, Chicago-O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago-Midway, Dallas-Love, Phoenix, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Las Vegas and Charlotte.

An analysis by KMBC-TV says voter turnout will likely be the key factor in whether or not the airport renovation is passed.  The examination concludes that a November election in a city used to citywide votes in April could depress turnout.  It’s thought the turnout could be as low as 10 percent of the city’s 300,000 registered voters.

KMBC reports a September poll found 51 percent of 503 likely voters favored a new terminal, while 45 percent were against.  The tight margin indicates the vote could go either way.

Mayor James is hoping voters see the need to modernize an airport that he contends has outlived its usefulness.  “Building an airport that meets today’s travel needs, as opposed to the airport that was built in 1972, that was proclaimed as the airport for the 90’s.  Well the 90’s have long since come and gone.”

Getting the proposed airport into the design phase proved challenging in the months before Tuesday’s vote.  After a prolonged selection process, the Kansas City Council voted overwhelmingly in late September to embrace Maryland-based Edgemoor as its developer for the proposed single terminal.

The choice came amid bipartisan pressure from state lawmakers who represent the Kansas City area to instead select local firm Burns & McDonnell for the project.