Congressman Sam Graves, who had been a prominent bulwark against single-terminal proposals for Kansas City International Airport, on Tuesday offered qualified support for the private financing idea floated by Burns & McDonnell.
Graves, a Republican whose congressional district includes KCI and much of the Northland, said in a statement:
“I like this new concept and it’s a step in the right direction. But a lot remains to be seen, especially the final costs and how convenience is going to be preserved. That’s what matters to people in this region and in the Northland.”
Graves, who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has been frequently critical of efforts to persuade the public that KCI’s three-terminal design needs to be replaced with a new single-terminal building.
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He has frequently referenced the convenience of KCI’s current layout, his lack of trust in the Kansas City Aviation Department and the fact that the city renovated KCI in 2004 to the tune of a quarter-billion dollars.
His opposition to city-led proposals for KCI has been seen as an obstacle to City Hall’s efforts to persuade the public on the merits of a single-terminal design.
The Star reported earlier this year that city leaders in favor of substantial changes to KCI were attempting to persuade Graves to soften his position on the airport. Graves at the time indicated he was not opposed to “reasonable renovations” to KCI.
The Burns & McDonnell proposal is decidedly more substantial than renovations. The Kansas City engineering and construction firm proposes to build a single terminal while also raising funding for it privately with the help of Americo Life Co., an insurance firm led by Kansas City businessman Michael Merriman.
Graves warmed to the company’s proposal because he believes the private financing aspect of it increases the chances that KCI could be rebuilt faster and under budget. Graves is likely to insist upon public support for the idea and for transparency during the process.
Proponents for a refashioned KCI applauded Graves’ statement Tuesday.
“I think it’s incredibly important to have support from the folks who are representing the district, without question,” said Kansas City Councilwoman Jolie Justus, who represents the 4th District and chairs the Airport Committee. “His support as an opinion leader is important.”
She noted that Graves’ influence in Washington could help on matters where the city would need input from the Federal Aviation Administration.