Kansas City Voters Will Be Asked Whether To Build A New Terminal At KCI In November

Aug 24, 2017

Voters in Kansas City, Missouri, will decide in November whether the city should construct a new single terminal at Kansas City International Airport. 

The question remains, at least for now, who would build that terminal if voters approve. 

The Kansas City Council on Thursday unanimously approved language for the measure — the last possible day before the deadline for ballot language. 

The final version asks voters to approve construction of a new terminal and demolish the existing ones as necessary. It states that all the costs will be paid from airport operation revenues. It also specifies that the terminal will be paid for without issuing public airport revenue bonds, unless voters authorize the issuance of those bonds in a separate election. 

The approved language is part of a compromise brought by third district councilman Jermaine Reed to get the entire council in the same page. 

“We have not always agreed on the best method to achieve the construction of a new airport terminal in Kansas City,” Reed said in a statement following the vote.  “However, we have chosen to work together in these last hours and days leading up to our deadline to compose unifying ballot language on the issue. 

For weeks, councilmembers have been at an impasse about whether to rely on private financing or ask voters to authorize public airport bonds for the project. Either way, bonds would be paid back using airport revenues, not taxpayer money. 

Although Kansas City Mayor Sly James preferred a simpler version of the ballot language that didn't mention public airport bonds, he congratulated his colleagues after the vote. 

"This is the first milestone to doing what we absolutely must do if we're going to keep this city vital and keep the momentum and provide for the businesses in this city," James said. 

Issuing public airport bonds would probably be the cheapest way to finance a new terminal, but polling suggests voters are more likely to support private financing. 

The four engineering firms competing to build the new terminal have argued that private financing allows for more flexibility and could speed up the process, saving money in the long run. 

Members of a special airport selection committee are still weighing proposals from the competing firms, Burns & McDonnell's KCI Hometown Team, Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate LLC, JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle Midwest LLC), and KCI Partnership LLC (AEComm Capital).

Councilman Reed says they hope to announce the winner on August 31. 

Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Connect with her on Twitter @larodrig