For $1.5 Billion, What Do You Get?
Merle Travis wrote “Sixteen Tons” in 1946 about the seeming futility of life as a coal miner, but there is something here for 2013 Kansas City. Travis’ chorus says:
You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store
Currently, Kansas City International Airport uses 62 gates (sometimes) and services just less than 5 million passengers a year, well under airport projections made less than a decade ago. Based on those already wrong projections, the Kansas City Aviation Department wants to build a new terminal with at least $1.5 billion in bonds.
That new terminal, however, will only have 41 gates. It will be smaller than what we have now. In return, it will take longer to get to your flight, will increase ticket and parking prices, and will saddle the city with millions of dollars in debt payments each year. According to our calculations, no cost savings or increases in sales elsewhere will be enough to pay for the project.
You can determine for yourself exactly who is the company store in this metaphor, but this much is clear: Kansas City likely will get nothing in return from its new terminal except more debt.