Good news out of MidAmerica St. Louis Airport: Allegiant Air is starting flights to Phoenix, and there’s enough passenger traffic that the Transportation Security Administration needs to put in a second line with advanced passenger and baggage screening machines.
Success is just around the corner, right?
Except that all this positive momentum is requiring more spending on the airport.
They are expanding the parking lots to handle the traffic after another recent expansion: $1.33 million. They might need to put in a parking plaza to start charging for parking: $650,000. They needed 100 more chairs in the terminal: $27,625. Passenger bridges to the aircraft need work: $373,000. Advanced passenger and baggage screening machines: $1.1 million. Marketing for the new Phoenix flights: $30,000.
The St. Clair County taxpayer subsidy was $6.5 million in 2015, which brought the grand total to $81 million since 2002.
You’d call it a money pit that nickels and dimes you to death, except that we’re talking millions at a shot.
So 2017 is expected to see 100,000 passengers board an Allegiant flight at MidAmerica. If the 2015 taxpayer subsidy is the same, that is like a taxpayer handing $65 to each of the passengers who paid $54 to go to Phoenix.
Elected County Board members washed their hands of responsibility for the dollars flowing to the airport, and the appointees who make those decisions only answer to County Chairman Mark Kern. Those appointees on the Public Building Commission hired consultants Crawford, Murphy and Tilly to update the airport’s master plan — cost to be determined.
A terminal expansion was recommended in the last master plan, so what are the chances an expansion will be pushed by this update? More flights create a convenience, but the financial hole is so deep there is no break-even point in this cycle of passenger service and terminal expansion costs.
Public comments will also be part of the master plan update. If you have an issue with the costs of success at MidAmerica, best speak up in defense of your wallet.