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Richards-Gebaur Air Reserve Station

In July 1991, the BRAC Commission recommended closure of Richards-Gebaur Air Reserve Station, the transfer of the 442nd Tactical Fighter Wing to Whiteman Air Force Base, and the transfer of the 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and the 77th and 78th Aerial Port Squadrons to Peterson Air Force Base. The installation was closed on September 30, 1994.

Environmental studies have been in progress at the installation since FY82. Prominent site types include a fire training area, vehicle maintenance areas, hazardous waste drum storage areas, fuel storage areas, and underground storage tanks (USTs). The installation conducted several Interim Remedial Actions (IRAs), including soil bioventing, removal of contaminated soil, and removal of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-contaminated equipment. In FY95, the installation completed an IRA involving the removal of two USTs. The installation also installed a passive soil bioventing system at a former UST site.

An Environmental Baseline Survey (EBS) completed in FY94 designated 114 acres as CERFA-clean. The installation uses interim leases to lease parcels to the Kansas City Aviation Department (KCAD). Runway and aviation support facilities were transferred to KCAD before the installation was closed. Facilities permitted to the Marine Corps were also available for immediate reuse. Supplemental EBSs are used as attachments to finding of suitability to lease (FOSL) and finding of suitability to transfer (FOST) documents as further property is leased and transferred. In FY97, a groundwater survey was conducted for the central drainage area and five sites. In addition, the EBS was revised, and implementation of the land reuse plan continued.

The Richards-Gebaur Airport was built in 1941 on land owned by the City of Kansas City, Missouri. In 1955, the city deeded the property free of charge to the United States Air Force for use as a permanent military base. The Air Force deactivated the base in 1976, declaring approximately 1,362 acres as surplus property. Since then, it has been a public use general aviation airport primarily serving small privately owned aircraft. In August 1985, the United States conveyed the property back to Kansas City, pursuant to the Surplus Property Act. This conveyance required the city to use the property as a public use airport. Between 1986 and 1994, the city had accepted approximately $12.2 million in federal Airport Improvement Program funds for airport development, and each grant required the city to give written assurances that the airport would be available to the public for aeronautical use.

For several years, the Richards-Gebaur Airport had consistently lost money. Between 1983 and 1997, losses exceeded $18 million and were subsidized by the city's two commercial airports. The airport's losses were projected to continue at more than $1.5 million annually. In 1997, in an effort to pursue an opportunity to redevelop the land into a new intermodal rail-truck freight distribution center, Kansas City submitted an application to the FAA requesting permission to close the airport and seeking to be released from its federal obligations and assurances to maintain the property for public aeronautical use under the Surplus Property Act and the Airport Improvement Program.

The FAA and Kansas City negotiated a memorandum agreement dated July 1998, in which the FAA concluded that the terms it attached to the release and closure of the airport would result in a net benefit to aviation. The FAA found that although the facility was maintaining operation as a general aviation airport, it was able to do so only at substantial losses which were heavily subsidized by Kansas City's other commercial airports, draining funds otherwise available to those facilities. The FAA found that this financial burden was not necessary in a metropolitan area served by several other airports that remain available to general aviation.

In June 2001 the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the FAA's 1998 decision to allow Kansas City to turn the Richards-Gebaur Memorial Airport into a rail-to-truck freight center. The decision to close the airport was bitterly contested by the Friends of Richards-Gebaur Airport (FoR-GA) and the city of Grandview, Mo.

 



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