Trenton-Mercer Airport expansion plans worry neighbors in N.J. and Pa.

More and more passengers are flocking to Trenton-Mercer Airport in Ewing, New Jersey. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

More and more passengers are flocking to Trenton-Mercer Airport in Ewing, New Jersey. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

For those looking for ways to travel economically, finding the right airport can help reduce flight costs significantly.

In the Philadelphia region, an increasing number of travelers have slowly turned to Trenton-Mercer Airport in New Jersey.

New numbers in from Mercer County show that, in 2013, the number of passengers at the airport was 147,826. In 2017, the tally jumped to 727,252.

Frontier Airlines is now the only commercial airline operating at the airport, but Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes hopes an expansion will attract other airlines.

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The county is in the process of doing an airport master plan, he said, which could lead to a new terminal.

“And if we get a new terminal that has the modern amenities people look for, I think we can only continue to grow,” Hughes said.

Private planes and the U.S. Air Force, which conducts helicopter training for the Air National Guard, also use the airport.

But Hughes emphasized that the airport’s convenience is what consumers like most about it.

 “The comments we get most are, ‘It’s better than driving to Newark or Philadelphia.’ And the convenience of the airport, I think, is a real selling point,” he said.

A plane takes off from Trenton-Mercer Airport, as viewed from the front yard of Anne Chmielewski. (photo provided)

But not everybody is enjoying this convenience.

Anne Chmielewski and Tracey Kiriluk are members of Mercer Quiet Skys, a group of residents worried about that  any expansion will affect their quality of life. The group formed in May 2017 when residents in Ewing Township received letters that trees and homes in the area could be removed to accommodate possible expansion of the airport.

Chmielewski lives about a mile away from the end of the runway, but she said her home could be at risk from added infrastructure.

“And now they’re saying that the house potentially could be taken by the airport, because they feel that it is a safety issue to them,” she said.

Some in Pennsylvania — including the Lower Makefield Township Airport Review Panel — also are concerned about the consequences of airport expansion.

The county says that the airport master plan has already been approved by the Federal Aviation Association.

It’s also not the first time that Frontier Airlines has looked to airports beyond Philadelphia to build their reach.  The airline flew limited flights out of New Castle County airport in Delaware for two years.  Those flights ended in June 2015.


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