Voters approve $1bn Kansas City airport PPP

Plan for an Edgemoor-led team to build a 750,000-square-foot single-terminal hub backed by 75% at referendum.

A $1 billion airport PPP in Kansas City, Missouri won the overwhelming approval of the city’s voters, with 75 percent supporting the plan in a referendum on Tuesday.

The vote now gives the city the chance to reach a memorandum of understanding with Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate, the lead developer of the consortium. The airport’s selection committee picked the consortium, which also includes Meridiam Infrastructure, from a group of four bidders in September.

The project will reconstruct Kansas City International Airport ­– which recorded 11 million passengers last year – as a 750,000-square-foot single terminal with at least 35 gates and a 6,500-space parking garage. The modernisation will be financed through private investment and paid for by user fees.

The city explored a similar plan last year, with Mayor Sly James leading the push. That plan was abandoned in May 2016 due to a lack of popular support, but the idea was revived this spring when Kansas City-based engineering consultancy Burns & McDonnell brought forward its own proposal.

Before the city could decide on the Burns & McDonnell plan, Los Angeles-based engineering firm AECOM submitted a letter to James stating its interest in competing for the project. The city then opened a competitive bidding process with four teams – Burns & McDonnell, AECOM, Edgemoor and Kansas City-based Bluescope Construction – shortlisted to submit their plans.

The Edgemoor team also includes Clark Construction, Clarkson Construction and Weitz Company, which will form a joint venture for the design of the project; Skidmore, Ownings & Merrill as the lead architect; Project Finance Advisory as the financial advisor; and CityFi as technology advisor.

The MOU must now be approved by the City Council. If it moves forward, the terminal is expected to open in 2021.

In the US, several airport PPPs have proceeded in recent years including the $4 billion LaGuardia Airport development and the $5 billion Los Angeles International Airport modernisation. If Tuesday’s vote is any indication, similar plans may garner greater support that expected.

“It is obviously a terrific result for a P3 project, but I don’t think it is at all surprising,” John Schmidt, a partner and PPP specialist for the Chicago-based law firm Mayer Brown, told Infrastructure Investor regarding the vote. “These days politicians generally want to be seen as supporting P3 as innovative cost-effective financing for infrastructure and they are reflecting a popular attitude.”