Kansas City voters overwhelmingly approved a $1 billion new single terminal at the city’s international airport last night.  The plan won by a stunning 75 percent margin in what was previously predicted to be a close vote.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James-D (Image courtesy of Mayor Sly James)

The election is seen as a major victory for Mayor Sly James, who’s been one of the airport project’s fiercest proponents.  He says the industry will now have a state of the art facility from which to expand service.

“The airlines have told us they want to expand here in Kansas City,” said James.  “And in order to do that, they need a new terminal.  And that’s exactly what we want to do.”

The ballot measure’s passage caps six-plus years of fits and stops and political wrangling within the city over a facility considered to be obsolete in some circles.

James, who has less than two years left in his second and final term in office had staked his legacy on the project.  The city had spent $1.7 million on a study to explore options for a new airport.

Backers of the ballot measure stressed that costs for the billion-dollar venture would be covered by fees airlines pay, plus other sources of revenue such as parking.

Opponents, including Republican state House Majority Leader Mike Cierpoit of Lee’s Summit, were skeptical airlines would bring new service and noted the new single terminal would have fewer gates than the existing three horse-shoe shaped buildings.

Cierpoit will now become the state’s 8th District Senator after winning a closer than originally expected special election Tuesday night.

Voter participation was expected to be the key factor in last night’s airport ballot measure.  Most citywide elections in Kansas City take place in April, and projections for Tuesday’s turnout were as low as 10 percent.

Moving the airport plan into the design phase brought controversy in the weeks and months leading up to Tuesday’s vote. After a drawn-out selection process, the Kansas City Council chose Maryland-based Edgemoor as its developer for the proposed single terminal over popular local firm Burns & McDonnell.