As Trenton-Mercer Airport considers expansion, residents fear consequences
Trenton-Mercer Airport is planning a major expansion, but some area residents are pushing back on environmental and health concerns they fear will follow.
A two-hour public virtual hearing on June 2 starting at 7 p.m. will review a environmental assessment project for a proposed terminal prepared by Mercer County, which owns and operates the New Jersey airport.
The hearing begins with a presentation of the project and should end with a period of public comment. Assessment is a required step by the federal government in the Trenton-Mercer Airport Master Plan, a document guiding airport development over the next 20 years.
The county developed the plan in conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration and finalized it in 2018.
The existing 24,780 square foot terminal, first built in 1975, would be expanded to approximately 125,000 square feet, according to information found at www.mercercounty.org.
While the master plan says the new terminal and a number of other planned projects will keep the airport competitive locally, residents on both sides of the Delaware River plan to raise a number of environmental and health issues at the next hearing. .
âThe biggest concern is that Mercer County and the FAA are building a major commercial airport in the middle of an environmentally sensitive, densely populated, historically significant area,â Judith Hoechner said earlier this week.
Hoechner is a resident of Yardley and an active member of Threatened skies of Trenton and Bucks Residents for Responsible Airport Management (BRRAM).
Hoechner and other activists from the groups warn the expansion would quadruple air traffic in the area, leading to a number of air quality and noise issues for residents like her who live within three miles of Trenton – Thank you.
The County Airport Development web page gives a much more conservative estimate of the increase in air traffic.
Between 2015 and 2035, daily commercial, corporate or military aircraft flights are expected to increase from approximately 78,263 to 95,275 flights per year. This represents approximately 23 additional flights per day over a period of 20 years.
Urban Engineers, a company that helped develop the assessment, also highlighted the need for a larger terminal with rapid growth just before the pandemic.
An earlier forecast made during the development of the master plan estimated the annual growth in passenger numbers from 314,655 in 2016 to 476,507 in 2035, an increase of 51%.
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The airport, however, reported seeing 404,349 passengers in 2018, a 28% increase that the airport did not expect to see until at least some time after 2025, according to its own estimates.
The pandemic has caused a significant drop in air travel since the start of 2020, although air passengers are slowly increasing this year.
Passenger numbers peaked last February, with 36,448 people, dropping to 19,039 in March, then hitting their lowest point of the year in April with just 124 passengers.
The airport continued to receive several thousand passengers per month throughout the year, and the airport reported around 33,000 passengers this year in March 2021.
Robin Karpf, director of Trenton Skies Threatened, says Mercer County “deliberately underestimated growth rates” in its analyzes, in part because the airport’s development is broken down into a list of many individual projects.
“The airport has many ongoing and planned projects which they believe are not connected despite the cumulative impact these projects will have on air traffic capacity. As a result, they have performed very limited environmental scans for only just a few of the many projects, individually and separately, while pushing through other projects and repairs or routine maintenance that don’t require any environmental analysis, âKarpf, of Lawrenceville, wrote in an email to this news agency. Friday.
Threatened Skies previously said the project was compartmentalized to avoid triggering a more in-depth environmental review process.
The plan required the current assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act, preventing the airport from obtaining further approvals until it was completed.
One of those approvals is for the FAA’s passenger installation fee, a capped fee of $ 4.50 billed to customers, which helps generate millions of dollars for capital projects over time.
Karpf, who lives in Mercer County, said the airport project posed a potential risk of contaminating the Delaware River with chemicals given its proximity to the former Naval Air Warfare Center in Trenton, which is adjacent to Trenton-Mercer Airport.
Unregulated federally regulated chemicals, commonly referred to as PFAS, are a widespread scourge in many areas where military fire-fighting exercises have been a regular occurrence for decades.
Tests revealing extremely high levels of a possible carcinogen found in a number of retail, commercial and industrial products in 2016 led to a massive shutdown of public and private drinking water wells in 2016 in parts of Bucks counties and by Montgomery.
The Environmental Protection Agency has since established a lifetime health advisory level for PFAS contamination of 70 parts per trillion.
A lawsuit filed in January between New Jersey and the military seeking restitution for water sanitation, the former Trenton base is an area with extremely high PFAS levels.
“Twenty-three of 38 groundwater monitoring wells onsite at Naval Air Warfare
The center revealed combined levels of (PFAS) ranging from 178 ppt to 27,800 ppt. “, Indicates the lawsuit filed earlier this year.
The assessment responds to concerns about the disposal of PFAS, recommending steps such as extensive soil testing prior to soil disturbance in the region.
Karpf said the terminal project and other works, such as renovating existing runways and adding traffic lanes, could significantly increase groundwater runoff into the river.
PFAS are often referred to as âforever chemicalsâ because they are notoriously difficult to remove from waterways and remain in a person’s bloodstream once ingested.
A copy of the full environmental assessment and other airport related documents are available at: www.ttnterminal.com.
Instructions on how to participate and view the June 2 virtual hearing are also available on the website.