Kansas City’s voters took a decisive and historic step Tuesday by overwhelmingly approving plans to build a new terminal at Kansas City International Airport.
It wasn’t close. This was a landslide in favor of a new terminal.
We congratulate voters, north and south of the river, who rejected last-minute misinformation to see the facts: KCI is aging, unsuited to 21st-century needs, and must be replaced.
Congratulations are in order for Mayor Sly James, members of the City Council, airport staff, campaign staff and interest groups that worked tirelessly in support of the new terminal plan.
Joe Reardon, head of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, deserves a special tip of the cap. He spoke to more than 100 civic groups about the need for a new airport.
Today we celebrate common sense, and a clear-cut victory for progress. But here’s another fact: Voter approval is just the start.
There is still work to do before travelers can enjoy the convenience and safety a new terminal will provide.
▪ The memorandum of understanding. The city still must conclude negotiations with the preferred designer and builder, Edgemoor Infrastructure, on a range of issues.
We had hoped the MOU would be signed by now. It will eventually lead to a contract that will specify financing, workforce goals, timetables and costs for the project. There is a silver lining, though. Passage of the terminal project now gives the city a stronger negotiating position in its talks with Edgemoor.
That’s because the city holds an approved $1 billion project in its hands. If Edgemoor resists a strong MOU, the city can simply walk away from the company, costing Edgemoor a lucrative, and now essentially guaranteed, project.
Edgemoor understands this and has every incentive to finalize a deal.
▪ Design. Edgemoor has promised extensive community outreach as it fleshes out the bare-bones terminal design it has offered voters. Kansas Citians should insist on an airport that is tailored to our city’s needs.
The new terminal must be convenient, safe and well-designed — all at the lowest practical cost.
▪ Minority- and women-owned business participation. The KCI terminal project could be transformative for minority business owners, workers and contractors. City Hall must guarantee that outcome.
That means firm minority hiring goals, a strong community benefits agreement and strict monitoring for compliance.
▪ Maintain the current terminal. Once construction begins, the Aviation Department needs to ensure that travelers have a safe and convenient experience in the existing terminals until the new one opens. Disruption from demolition and construction must be kept to a minimum.
Back in April, in the face of some resistance, The Star recommended a November vote on a new terminal at KCI. We called a November vote “ambitious but reasonable.”
Since that first editorial, we have worked to protect the voters’ interests in the project. We urged the city to make the procurement process more competitive, open and transparent. It eventually became those things, at considerable savings to travelers.
We also worked to make sure readers were fully informed about KCI so that voters could be confident in their decision Tuesday. They were.
We commit to the same vigilance as the project unfolds. The city must deliver what the campaign promised and no less.
On this day, though, we join with most of the region in applauding the wisdom of Kansas City’s voters. Another item on the to-do list has been checked, and we will all be better for it.