Kansas City Officials got some long-awaited airport news today — the Federal Aviation Administration has signed off on the environmental assessment, a crucial step before construction of a new terminal can begin.
The document ensures compatibility with environmental laws and regulations like noise restrictions, air quality, and land use throughout the construction process and once the terminal is built. The aviation department has been waiting for the document to be approved for months.
“This was a big deal, we’ve been waiting for a long time to hear from the federal government,” said councilwoman Jolie Justus, who chairs the city’s airport committee.
One final major hurdle remains before the demolition of Terminal A can begin.
The council must approve a development agreement with the Edgemoor. That agreement includes a budget, a term sheet signed by the major airlines who use KCI and other standards as the project moves forward.
The airport committee advanced that agreement Thursday. It will be before the full council next week, assuming the airlines sign the term sheet. Aviation officials expect that to happen Wednesday, February 28.
Edgemoor managing director Geoff Stricker expects major demolition to start four weeks after that agreement is passed.
“Assuming that there’s a positive outcome, then we’re ready to get to men and women starting to work,” Stricker said.
But it’s unlikely the council vote will be unanimous — several members of the city council are still highly skeptical of Edgemoor. And they worry that the city could be on the hook for millions of dollars should something go wrong.
One of those is Teresa Loar, who remained unconvinced that the term sheet explicitly obligates the airlines to pay for the entire $1.5 billion.
City attorney Galen Buford assured her that it does.
The term sheet is a precursor to a larger agreement that will include more specific details about airline fees and governance.
Another issue is how to pay for $90 million owed to Edgemoor for early work on the project.
There are several options on the table, including the city taking out a short-term loan to pay those costs. The airport committee is set to debate several financing options next week.
But Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner says until that issue is resolved, it’s too early for the council to approve a development agreement.
Deputy aviation director Dave Long says under the term sheet, the airlines have agreed to cover that $90 million if the project implodes and long-term financing is never secured.
CORRECTION: This story was updated to clarify Geoff Stricker's title.
Lisa Rodriguez is a reporter and the afternoon newscaster for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @larodrig.