Kansas City voters will decide on Nov. 7 whether to approve the redesign of Kansas City International Airport.
Thanks to an Aug. 24 city council vote, the voters also will decide how to pay for it. At issue was the use of public or private money to finance demolition of the existing KCI terminals and the construction of a new single-terminal airport. The council had been divided over whether to ask the voters to approve the issuance of airport bonds, the most common method of public financing, or to allow the eventual winner of a competition to privately finance design and construction.
Bonds are usually the cheapest financing method for publicly owned infrastructure, such as an airport. However, polling in Kansas City has shown that voters don’t favor public bonds. The city is weighing four proposals to design and construct the new terminal, all of which are said to focus on private financing that could conceivably allow for faster and less expensive construction.
The council voted unanimously to leave the financing question up to the voters. The approved ballot language seeks voter support to allow the city to design and construct a new passenger terminal at KCI and demolish the existing ones, with all costs paid solely from money derived from the city’s airports and related facilities “and without the issuance of general airport revenue bonds unless such general airport revenues bonds have received prior voter approval.”
The voters can approve bonds in a election if necessary. Airport revenues come from passengers and other airport users, such as the city’s 1¢ sales tax on all items sold at KCI and other airport-owned facilities. Several airlines already have pledged money to a potential KCI modernization if the redesign is approved by voters this year.
Teams led by local engineering firm Burns & McDonnell, AECOM, Edgemoor Infrastructure and Real Estate, and Jones Lang LaSalle have all submitted proposals to design and construct a new KCI. The city council approved the ballot language on the last possible day to have it included on the Nov. 7 ballot. The city council will announce the winner of the competition for the KCI redesign on Aug. 31. The ballot language was approved before the design team was chosen.