Mayor pushes consideration of terminal additions at Columbia Regional Airport

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 | 4:40 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Mayor Bob McDavid wants to make sure a redesign of the Columbia Regional Airport terminal is on Columbia City Council members’ minds.

"We've got 350,000 passengers from Boone and Cole County driving to St. Louis and Kansas City," McDavid said at Tuesday's council meeting. "If it's our intention to capture a larger market, we’re going to have to have a larger terminal."

Efforts to expand services at the airport have been an ongoing project for city officials for several years. This has included an update of the airport's master plan and securing an FAA grant that will be used to improve and expand existing taxiways at the airport. McDavid said the redesign of the existing terminal would be an important step in improving the attractiveness of the airport, given other regional options.

City Manager Mike Matthes agreed with the mayor.

"To do more with the airport than we are today, we simply have to have a terminal that can house more than 50 people," Matthes said.

Architectural firm Reynolds, Smith, & Hills provided two concept designs for an expansion of the existing terminal, each occurring in two phases. In a letter to the council, Gregory Cecil, chairman of the Columbia Regional Airport Advisory Board, recommended an addition on the south end of the existing terminal, which would create a new entry room to the airport and a new departure lobby that is nearly triple the size of current facilities.

Cecil cited a lack of interruption of services, clear taxiways and a lower cost as advantages of the southern addition.

Estimated costs for the southern addition total $17.1 million. The north development plan would cost an estimated $26 million. Funds for a terminal addition have not yet been allocated.

"If, of course, we decide to build a terminal, we will build a terminal commensurate with the amount of money we have, which is yet to be determined," McDavid said.

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Richard Saunders January 4, 2012 | 5:12 p.m.

So, I guess the budget just isn't screwed up enough yet? I can see the meeting now...

"Hey, let's go millions more in debt, for infrastructure that will never, ever pay for itself! It will look really PROGRESSIVE! Plus, they'll give us some free grant money too! People like that."

*All heads nod in approval with glazed eyes and strings of drool hanging from their chins*

I'm starting to think all of these pyramid (or Garagezilla) building municipalities are trying to spend as much as they can before they ALL file for bankruptcy.

They cannot even afford the current retirement system, yet they give everyone a raise (making the problem even worse). Meanwhile their public transit system fails so spectacularly, that even with grants, it loses over a $1M per year. And we're supposed to believe they're qualified to determine the needs of the air travel market? (remember their estimate of 60,000 people per year visiting the Youzeum?)

This is welfare for the rich at it's worst. Exactly who has directed these people to bankrupt our community? Certainly not the people who will ultimately pay the price for this folly, that's for sure.

I bet they'd act a lot more responsible if they were held personally liable for the debt, but instead, thanks to Other Peoples' Money, they don't have to think twice before condemning us all to collective debt slavery. Nope, all they care about is maintaining their own personal power by keeping the facade shiny.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 4, 2012 | 5:24 p.m.

The airport will remain under-utilized, cumbersome, and costly until industry requiring aircraft is allowed around it.

And that won't happen. It's considered environmentally unfriendly.

And so, we'll be discussing the failure of our airport 50 years from now.


(Report Comment)
Louis Schneebaum January 4, 2012 | 5:35 p.m.

Sometimes, we have to put money into something in order to draw users. The typical, single-minded logic that the conservative haters espouse is that nothing should ever have money put into it in order to increase its quality -- i.e. demand will mandate the growth of the airport naturally. Maybe they're even saying it from their rural homes, homes equipped with electricity and phones brought to them at a cost to the government. It would never have been profitable for private entities to provide these people with electricity or phone lines. Likewise, National Parks were never meant to 'turn a profit' -- but it's so great that some Republicans (see Teddy Roosevelt -- he was more like a modern Democrat) saw the value in not spoiling all of our lands. Why would our airport fail? The population of Columbia increased by nearly 1/4 over the last decade (US Census). The metro area will be well over 250,000 within the next 20 years. Urbanization is a fact, this area WILL grow, transportation will be in demand.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 4, 2012 | 5:53 p.m.

Louis: Yes, sometimes you have to put money in to get money out. Businesses do this all the time. If they don't, they die.

But, businesses also are much more realistic in their planning than governments. Government plans are often full of hope and prayer and usually do not explore/allow all options. That exploration is what reduces risk of failure for businesses.

This city simply will not allow development near and around the airport.

But, recent land annexations by Ashland show they KNOW what eventually has to happen.

And Columbia will be left out in the cold tax-wise. We'll have a viable airport for travel, tho.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 4, 2012 | 5:58 p.m.

As for Columbia's growth, I first admit I am NOT a real estate agent.

I'm just a citizen who looks at where development is headed and where it's not headed.

It's headed east and north. West has a Perche Creek boundary and no pending bridges/roads. SW will see some growth, mainly high-end stuff. South has Rock Bridge State Park and building on karst geography won't happen.

Does ANYONE see Columbia growing south on 63 towards the airport? Is it happening at all except for Discovery Ridge.

Mainly it's east...that's where we put the new high school and that's gonna be a magnet.

And east is even closer to Lambert.

So, yes, Columbia will grow. But do you see it growing south towards Jeff/Ashland?

I don't.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 4, 2012 | 5:59 p.m.

Meanwhile, there are presently regional airports here in the Midwest (Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana - even one located on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan*) that do have scheduled air service and passenger/freight volumes that justify their existences.

What are the differences between those airports and the one here? Has anyone bothered to find out?

I agree with Louis that IF the potential is there - in a reasonable time frame - the improvements should be made now. They aren't apt to cost less in the future. But if there is no future...

*-The UP is sometimes referred to as "Baja Canada."

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin January 5, 2012 | 6:22 p.m.

National Parks and Teddy Roosevelt have little in common with Columbia's leaders and projects, so I side with Michael Williams and Richard Saunders for several reasons, not the least of which are the many other unfunded priorities we face.

City leadership does not have a good enough grasp on the expertise needed to turn around an airport that has perennially limped along, something that can only be done with full participation from additional players -- Fulton, Ashland, Jeff City, Moberly, Boonville, Mexico, and so on.

With Columbia always in the driver's seat at the airport, and no Regional Airport Authority in place, there's no way we can even begin a conversation on what to do to turn it around.

Making that possibility more difficult, word has it these other municipalities don't much care for dealing with Columbia (we're known as rather arrogant around the state). That may be one reason we don't have a Regional Airport Authority.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 5, 2012 | 9:08 p.m.

"Sometimes, we have to put money into something in order to draw users."

Louie, that's why this loser was built.

Mike M. - Was not Columbia Regional Airport originally proposed with the assumption that Jefferson City would be happy to relegate their air traffic to an airport named Columbia? Did not the city of Jefferson refuse to collaborate before the first earth was disturbed near Englewood? If my memory serves this was the case.

(Report Comment)

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