DIA plan is still worth pur­su­ing

The Denver Post - - OPINION - He­len H. Richard­son, Den­ver Post file

It’s no se­cret that air­line op­er­a­tors aren’t run­ning a char­ity. While the ser­vice they pro­vide is worth the trou­ble of ac­tu­ally us­ing it, most trav­el­ers have at least one or two hor­ror stories un­der their belt, and this year we’ve seen too many bad ex­am­ples of re­jected and even abused fliers.

So keep that in mind when con­sid­er­ing the push­back from ma­jor play­ers in the air­line in­dus­try against Den­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port of­fi­cials’ plans to re­de­velop the Great Hall. We’ve ar­gued the 34-year public-pri­vate part­ner­ship es­ti­mated to be north of $1 bil­lion is worth pur­su­ing. We stand by the claim, and wel­come any cost sav­ings the back-and-forth pro­duces, but we hope the re­de­vel­op­ment con­tin­ues apace.

As The Den­ver Post’s Jon Mur­ray re­ported re­cently, DIA’s ma­jor air­lines are rais­ing ma­jor ob­jec­tions about the scope and price of the re­de­vel­op­ment plans. They are seek­ing to de­lay the process, and lob­by­ing City Coun­cil mem­bers hard even as you read this. (Though air­port op­er­a­tions aren’t sup­ported by tax­pay­ers, it falls to the City Coun­cil to ap­prove DIA’s plans.)

Most of what the air­lines are do­ing is pre­dictable bar­gain­ing. They did it when DIA was still a dream, ar­gu­ing that keep­ing the run­ways at Sta­ple­ton would be bet­ter for all in­volved. Their goal is un­der­stand­able: They want to keep the en­planed pas­sen­ger fee as low as pos­si­ble. Presently, it’s $12 per pas­sen­ger. If it rose to $13 to help cover costs, as DIA of­fi­cials pro­pose, the fee would re­main near or below that of other busy air­ports. If in the de­bate ways are found to keep the fee lower, so much the bet­ter.

All that said, it is con­cern­ing that the ex­ec­u­tives are ar­gu­ing they have been left out of the loop on cost dis­cus­sions un­til late in the process. DIA of­fi­cials say they’ve been trans­par­ent for more than a year. We urge the par­ties to quickly hash this out.

Den­ver has pros­pered thanks in good mea­sure to DIA. The dis­tinc­tive air­port is a world-class fa­cil­ity won­der­fully ex­pres­sive of many core Den­ver val­ues and de­sires. Now con­nected to Union Sta­tion via com­muter rail, and see­ing mush­room­ing pas­sen­ger de­mand, the 22-year-old air­port needs rethought so that it re­mains ca­pa­ble of safely han­dling the 60 mil­lion pas­sen­gers who visit each year.

A chief con­cern is re­vamp­ing the TSA se­cu­rity process. The present con­fig­u­ra­tion is too invit­ing to ex­ploita­tion from would-be bad ac­tors and too bur­den­some for those just try­ing to get where they are go­ing with a min­i­mum of has­sle. Given those con­cerns, de­lay­ing the con­tract ap­proval to be­gin the public-pri­vate part­ner­ship strikes us as reck­less and un­nec­es­sary.

Ex­tend­ing the ex­pected Sept. 1 sign­ing dead­line would also be costly, as de­lays sub­ject the air­port to mil­lions of dol­lars in penal­ties un­der the City Coun­cil-ap­proved pre­de­vel­op­ment agree­ment.

Sure, the price tag is a big one, but cer­tainly not un­usual for the long-term part­ner­ship, which also would up­date ag­ing equip­ment, in­crease op­por­tu­ni­ties for eat­ing, drink­ing and shop­ping and han­dle the in­creas­ing num­ber of pas­sen­gers mov­ing through the air­port each year — the bulk of them start­ing and end­ing their trip in Den­ver — all with­out the added cost of new con­struc­tion.

We urge the City Coun­cil to keep this project on sched­ule, and look for­ward to any rea­son­able sav­ings the air­lines can ex­act in the 11th-hour shuf­fle.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.