Plans are in the works for expansion at the Trenton-Mercer Airport—not only in the size of the terminal, but also in the number of routes being flown out of the facility.
Mercer County officials have announced plans to expand the passenger terminal and taxiways at Trenton-Mercer, 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, county officials said.
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 Oct. 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, 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, visit the airport section of Mercer County’s website.
The airport isn’t the only expansion making recent news. Frontier Airlines—one of the two carriers flying out of Trenton-Mercer—will be getting new planes and adding routes.
On Nov. 16, Frontier Airlines announced that it would be offering more direct routes to the West Coast from Trenton-Mercer Airport starting in April 2018.
Daniel Shurz, a senior vice president at Frontier, made the announcement at the airport during a celebration of Frontier’s 5th year of service in Mercer County. The addition of Frontier to the airport helped mark a turnaround for the airport, at which a number of carriers had failed in the past.
It has also helped provide an economic boost to Ewing Township, with several commercial projects locating in the town as a result of the airport’s success. Last November, Allegiant Air became the second carrier to fly out of Trenton-Mercer.
With the new routes announced last month, flights from Trenton-Mercer to Atlanta will continue on to California, and depending on the day, land either in Los Angeles or San Jose. Flights from Trenton to Chicago will then connect to either Phoenix or El Paso, Texas, also depending on the day. On Frontier’s one-stop flights, passengers will not have to deplane.
The route announcement followed on the heels of a blockbuster deal involving Frontier the previous day. On Nov. 15, Indigo Partners, the company that owns Frontier, announced a deal to buy 430 planes from Airbus for $49.5 billion, according to a news release.
Indigo will buy 273 A320neos and 157 A321neos. The planes will be split between its airlines—Frontier, JetSMART, Volaris and Wizz Air of Hungary. Out of the order, Frontier will get 100 A320neo and 34 A321neo aircraft. The 134 plane-order will be delivered between 2021 and 2026.
This new A321neo will compliment the carrier’s existing A321 family fleet. The news release states that the addition of the aircraft to the fleet will allow Frontier “to grow in new and existing markets, provide even more compelling low fares, further improve the carrier’s already industry-leading fuel efficiency and maintain the company’s status of having one of the youngest and most modern fleets in the U.S.”
According to the news release, the new aircraft mean the addition of more than 5,000 new positions including pilots, flight attendants and operations support. In addition, in 2018 Frontier will start taking delivery of aircraft from Airbus’ U.S.-based Mobile, Ala. production facility.
Editor’s Note: The original headline for this article could have been understood to mean that there are plans to expand the airport. While the terminal may be expanded to better serve customers, the county has announced no plans at this time to increase the number of gates.
Bill Sanservino contributed to the reporting for this article.