Illinois taxpayers have now been forced to invest more than $100 million in MidAmerica St. Louis Airport over the last two decades just to keep its troubled doors open.
According to Illinois Policy Institute, St. Clair County residents have contributed at least $104.3 million in the project since 2002, including $6.3 million in 2018 alone. Over much of that same time, home values in the area have fallen by 23 percent after adjusting for inflation and property taxes have climbed at least 5 percent, according to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Almost from the time it opened its door for business, operations at MidAmerica have been troubled. NBC News featured the airport on a “The Fleecing of America” segment in 1997 and it has earned such nicknames as “Gateway to Nowhere” and “Glass Palace on the Prairie.”
Through it all, county leaders have argued increased traffic flow would make all the difference. But in 2018, even as traffic at the airport increased by 20 percent and revenues jumped by $1.1 million, the airliner still finished in the red as expenses increased by at least $1.2 million.
MidAmerica’s original cost came in at $300 million and four years later, St. Clair County leaders moved to refinance the remaining $40 million in construction debt over the two-plus decade, a move that increased taxpayers’ debt burden to $88 million.