Mercer County officials have announced plans to expand the passenger terminal and taxiways at Trenton-Mercer Airport, in a major upgrade to the commercial airport.

“Our existing passenger terminal is 50 years old and becoming increasingly ill-equipped to accommodate our growing customer base,” County Executive Brian Hughes wrote in a letter. “The latest industry standards recommend a facility at least three times the size of our existing terminal based on current use.”

The master plan, produced by Urban Engineers, calls for the passenger terminal to be enlarged from 25,000 to 125,000 square feet. Currently the terminal is being used by Frontier and Allegiant, budget airlines that offer domestic flights. According to county officials, the airport would see a 13 percent increase in number of flights by 2035.

The plan also proposed removing about 180 trees and some houses near the runways to remove obstacles for takeoffs and landings. The home sales would be strictly voluntary, according to county officials.

The proposed expansion must go through an environmental review process that will consider such factors as increased jet noise.

But some who live near the airport are not waiting for that part of the review process to begin making some noise of their own about the planned expansion and tree removal.

At a public information session during the October 19 meeting of the Mercer County Freeholders, a number of residents spoke out against the upgrades (Hughes said the plan was not an “expansion.”) While current plans do not call for a runway lengthening, residents worried the improvements would mean more planes roaring over their homes.

The Mercer Quiet Skys [sic] group has started a Facebook page and is organizing opposition to the master plan, together with like-minded residents in Pennsylvania who have formed the “Bucks Residents for Responsible Airport Management” and “Lower Makefield Township Task Force” groups.

Quiet Skys appears to be gearing up for a long campaign. They have gathered petition signatures, distributed flyers, and lobbied representatives. The group meets the fourth Monday of every month at the Ewing Library.

The master plan is being prepared by Urban Engineers, which was selected through a qualifications-based process as the general consultant for the airport, and McFarland Johnson, a national aviation consulting firm specializing in airport planning studies at smaller commercial service airports. Ninety percent of the project is funded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), through various aviation user fees, with the remaining 10 percent coming from Mercer County.

In addition to professional evaluation, the master plan is being developed with public involvement. Three public meetings have been held to present information on existing conditions, forecast, and airport facility need; present the recommended development plan; and answer questions.

For more information about the Airport Master Plan process and what the plan contains, please visit the airport section of Mercer County’s website at www.mercercounty.org.

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