Waiting for VanLoh
The last three years of Kansas City aviation policy is much like Samuel Becket’s play, “Waiting for Godot.” We the audience sit and watch the characters who, according to one synopsis,
quarrel, make up, contemplate suicide, try to sleep, eat a carrot and gnaw on some chicken bones. Two other characters appear, a master and a slave, who perform a grotesque scene in the middle of the play. A young boy arrives to say that M. Godot will not come today, but that he will come tomorrow.
One doesn’t need too much encouragement to see the parallels. We’ve seen a petition to require a public vote on a new terminal, a show trial of advisory group meetings, a group of airlines who seem to change their views, an ineffective public relations campaign, and then finally we are told that the VanLoh Plan will not come this year. Maybe next year.
The former Aviation Department director and architect of the new terminal plan, Mark VanLoh, did not survive this effort. His career ended as a result of the mismanaged new terminal campaign. Mayor Sly James said in a tweet recently , “VanLoh is not here to kick anymore.” But make no mistake, even with a new department director, the $1.2 billion new terminal plan before us is very much the VanLoh plan. And despite claims that supporters have put the matter on the back burner, the Mayor and City Manager are still active in pushing for a new terminal. It even has its own hashtag: #NewKCI.
Architectural design company Crawford and Associates have their own solution for the airport. While they have not been permitted to present to the City’s Airport Committee, they did present to a meeting of the Urban Summit with several members of the committee in attendance. The Crawford Plan is compelling; it would preserve much of Terminal A while providing the amenities that VanLoh Plan proponents demand. Importantly, it is one-third of the cost of the VanLoh plan. Yet it allows for the same renovation to be done to a second terminal if air traffic continues to increase.
That last part may be why fans of the VanLoh plan don’t like it. Where they seem to prefer one big billion-dollar bet, the Crawford Plan is measured. One might even call it fiscally responsible.
In the meantime, supporters who loudly declared that, “doing nothing is not an option,” have themselves opted to do nothing; not even renovation. They just want a new terminal, and so we’re all still waiting for VanLoh.