A plan is moving forward to build a new main terminal building at Trenton Mercer airport in Ewing.

This has sparked concern among some local residents that the airport will significantly increase the number of commercial flights and cause problems.

“Our mission is to preserve the quality of life that we’re accustomed to, to protect our health and our environment, and to preserve our property values. We hope to make the airport a more respectful neighbor,” said Tracy Kiriluk, the director of the group Mercer Quiet Skys.

She explained the airport master plan, in its final stage of development, calls for enlarging the terminal from the size it is now, about 25,000 square feet, to up to 125,000 square feet.

“This would allow for more airline traffic and possibly additional air carriers, larger planes to come in and out of the airport,” she said

Right now there are about 80,000 flights a year into and out of Trenton Mercer airport, and the master plan envisions about 95,000 flights a year for the airport by 2037.

According to Kiriluk, this would cause problems.

“One plane taking off or landing every three minutes will affect our quality of life. There’d be hearing loss, breathing issues like asthma, increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”

She noted there would also be environmental issues as well.

“The increased jet fuel emissions and the de-icing chemicals going into the runoff to our soil and water supply,” she said.

Kiriluk noted a big new terminal could increase commercial traffic more than is being forecast, and it’s possible the number of flights a year could grow to 150,000.

Rick Lucas, a senior aviation planner with McFarland Johnson, the company developing the Trenton Mercer master plan, said there is no expectation that a larger main terminal building would result in a significant increase in commercial traffic.

Lucas pointed out during the 1990s and up until 2005 there were more than 100,000 planes landing and taking off every year from Trenton Mercer airport, compared to about 80,000 a year now. The current plan calls for the number to increase to only about 95,000 a year by 2037.

He noted the master plan being developed does not call for a runway extension or increased on-site parking.

He did stress however the antiquated terminal and baggage area would be significantly improved and modernized to better handle the people who use it.

“The existing terminal drastically, drastically undersized, by at least threefold from what it should be right now.”

He said the currently facility is not only small, it does not have enough rest rooms and simply cannot handle “TSA, baggage screening — all of the different requirements that you have now, multiple rental cars. Only one of them can fit in the terminal, the rest will bus you off site.”

He also pointed out a trailer is currently used for baggage claim, where the bags are carried in by hand and placed onto an old baggage belt.

“When you’re talking about a larger terminal, most of that is just putting facilities that an airport of this volume should have that it doesn’t. It’s not adding capacity to push out more flights,” he said.

Lucas noted there are only six or seven commercial flights leaving Trenton Mercer each day, so if the airlines wanted to they could already add more flights without any changes being made.

He said to receive grant money from the FAA, an airport master plan must be updated periodically, which is what is happening at Trenton Mercer.

Nevertheless, Kiriluk still has her doubts and is concerned about “the environmental impact, the noise, that this will affect our hearing, our breathing.”

She said another concern is the airport wants to purchase and then demolish several homes nearby, and cut down a lot of trees that are near the airport that provide a sound barrier when jets are taking off and landing.

Lucas said this is an FAA safety requirement, and has nothing to do with the master plan.

Kiriluk said the group will continue to voice concerns about the project and urge officials to share information and keep local residents updated about what is being considered.

She also suggested concerned citizens attend municipal and county meetings, and hold local officials responsible for giving updates about what is going on.

Other residents who did not want to be identified for this story said they felt alienated and out of the loop because information about the master plan has not been provided in a clear, straight-forward way, and no one has asked their opinion.

Kiriluk noted the group will have an information table set up at the Ewing Community Fest taking place on Saturday, Sept. 23 at TCNJ, and anyone who is interested can get an update on the master plan and receive a pair of free ear plugs.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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