Columbia’s Mayor Provides Flimsy Justification For Airport Expansion
City officials in Columbia, Mo., are considering increases in hotel taxes and sales taxes to fund a costly $17 million airport terminal renovation. This project is part of Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid’s “40 in 2020” initiative to host 40 percent of mid-Missouri airline travel by 2020. Despite the fact that airport expansion would be necessary to accommodate a significant increase in airline travel, simply wanting to expand is not an economically sound reason to do so.
As of Sept. 5, 2012, Columbia Regional Airport has a daily flight schedule that on average includes three outbound commercial flights at different times throughout the day. Starting Nov. 20, 2012, there will be two additional outgoing flights added per week, meaning one more flight on Tuesdays, and one on Saturdays. These two flights to Orlando, Fla., are the reason for the so-called crisis to build a new terminal, according to the mayor.
Now, I am not an aviation expert, nor am I proclaiming that the airport is not in need of renovation or repair. Yet, I can easily disagree with Mayor McDavid when he cites Mizzou’s Southeastern Conference (SEC) membership as another reason for airport expansion, because Mizzou athletics became part of the SEC this year.
He says that they do not “want to be known as the SEC school that has black-and-gold double wides welcoming you to Columbia.”
Does he think that every other SEC school’s city even has a commercial airport? (They do not. Tuscaloosa, Ala., for example, attempted to expand its airport and restore commercial service in the early 2000s, but discontinued all passenger service operations shortly thereafter.) Does being a member of the SEC count as a reason to spend $17 million on an airport? (My gut tells me no, but Texas A&M Coach Kevin Sumlin says “the SEC took over America,” so I assume he would say yes.)
You know, it is extremely important to keep up with those other SEC cities. I do not know if Columbia could survive being the only SEC city without a brand new performing arts center, a top poultry science program, or a national top 40 rodeo facility. Next time, I would like to see city officials provide researched and well thought out justifications for a multi-million dollar project — like studies on demand for air travel to and from Columbia, for example. Is that so much to ask?