Trenton-Mercer Airport will undergo a major expansion with a new parking garage and expanded terminal allowing passengers to board flights without ever setting foot on the tarmac.
The FAA has approved plans by Mercer County for a modern airport, replacing the facility constructed 1975 when Trenton-Mercer averaged just 150 air passengers per day and there was no security screening at airports.
Some local organizations had opposed the construction, citing concerns about air and noise pollution. Located off I-295 in Ewing, Trenton-Mercer’s flight path for some commercial passenger jets extends above Bucks County homes in Lower Makefield and Yardley.
In approving the plans Monday, the FAA said increased flight traffic at Trenton-Mercer was inevitable. Constructing the new terminal and parking garage won’t contribute to the air and noise pollution but make the airport better for passengers, the FAA ruled.
The FAA forecasts a 51% increase in flights from Mercer County, rising from 316,665 to 476,507 by the year 2035.
“The proposed action does not include any changes to runway lengths, runway alignments, instrument procedures, navigational equipment, or other factors that affect airfield capacity, nor is it expected to induceany growth in forecasted activity beyond what is contained in the current forecast,” the FAA ruled.
Concerns about environmental toxins were also dismissed. Firefighting foams, including PFAS, were used at Trenton-Mercer during training operations “from at least 2005 to 2018,” according to a report commissioned by Mercer County. In 2012, the federal Environmental Protection Agency added PFAS chemicals to a list of contaminants posing a potential risk to humans.
In approving the expansion, the FAA said Trenton-Mercer would meet New Jersey environmental requirements to protect against groundwater contamination from PFAS.
Trenton-Mercer Airport plans to quadruple the size of its current passenger terminal and to construct a parking garage for approximately 1,040 vehicles. Currently, passengers board and de-plane on the tarmac. One-half of the terminal space was given over to security screening after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Baggage check for arriving flights is currently in a two-room trailers off the parking lot.
Despite its tight accommodations, Frontier made Trenton-Mercer its East Coast hub with its inaugural inbound flight from Miami in October 2017 welcomed with the airport’s fire shooting high-powered water cannons in an arch over the runway.
Mercer County plans a 125,000-square-foot terminal, increasing the number of security screening lanes, expanding the baggage claim, passenger waiting and concession areas. The planned parking garage would offer a direct connection to the terminal.
“Mercer County’s goal is to get shovels in the ground by mid 2023 and to complete the project in 2025,” county executive Brian Hughes said Tuesday. “We expect no disruptions to flights or operations during construction of the new terminal, as the existing terminal will be in regular use during construction and until the new terminal is ready to welcome Trenton-Mercer customers.”
“Yes, once ground is broken, travelers to and from Trenton-Mercer will see a construction zone as the project progresses,” Hughes continued. “They also may encounter detours on roadways within the airport property and around the construction zone, and these detours will be prominently posted at the airport. All operations at the existing terminal will continue normally.”
Long opposed to any airport expansion, some residents of Bucks and Mercer counties said they fear the new terminal and parking garage are harbingers for ever-increasing flight traffic out of Trenton-Mercer.
Members of the nonprofits Trenton Threatened Skies and Bucks Residents for Responsible Airport Management have said they fear Trenton-Mercer will eventually become a major hub for air travel impacting life impacting homeowners in both Bucks and Mercer Counties.
In a letter to the FAA, members of Trenton Threatened Skies said materials sent to the FAA by Trenton-Mercer were misleading.
“We are concerned about the effects that the Airport’s projects have on our community’s health, wellness, and environment,” members said. “Trenton-Mercer Airport has failed to adequately assess the many potential environmental effects that its proposal and ambitions will have.”
Hughes said he expected additional flights from Frontier Airlines and additional commercial airlines to operate at Trenton-Mercer.
“As we emerge from the coronavirus crisis, we expect an increasing demand for leisure travel, and nationwide and at Trenton-Mercer, we are seeing airlines adding new flights and reviving old ones,” he said. “This is great news for Trenton-Mercer Airport and the many thousands of travelers who pass through our passenger facility.”