McKenna: Here’s the real story behind St. Louis airport-privatization study

Three out of four passengers in Europe land at a privatized airport. London’s Heathrow, the world’s seventh-largest airport, is operated entirely by a private operator. Beijing International, the second-largest, and Tokyo Haneda, the fifth-largest, use a public-private mix. If it chooses, St. Louis will be in the vanguard as the largest airport to privatize operations in the continental United States. This would provide a windfall to the city to use as it sees fit, such as paying off its $500 million airport debt. Why not consider it?

The U.S. lags in airport privatization because few cities have the cash, personnel or expertise to run the process. St. Louis has a civic-minded philanthropist, Rex Sinquefield, helping foot the bill, only asking to be repaid by the proceeds if the city chooses a deal. Local philanthropic support has helped maximize the city’s other projects — why not this one?

Unfortunately, some don’t want to consider this option. They oppose public-private partnership at the airport yet offer no solutions to help the city pay off debt or improve finances.

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