Wednesday, January 23, 2013

NEW JERSEY: Mercer County Freeholders to hire engineer for Trenton-Mercer Airport terminal reconfiguration

County officials are poised to hire an engineering firm to help them decide what kind of improvements to make at the Trenton-Mercer Airport terminal to accommodate the rapid expansion of Frontier Airlines.

“We are doing everything we can to be proactive about all of this,” Aaron T. Watson, director of the county Department of Transportation, said. “We look at this as all very good news moving forward.”

Frontier began offering commercial passenger service from the Ewing airport in November and recently announced it intends to make Trenton-Mercer its hub for flights from the East Coast. The airline has plans for dozens of flights out of the airport by the springtime.

At tonight's meeting, Watson urged the county freeholders to approve a resolution to hire an engineering firm when it comes before them this week. The firm would develop ideas for making the best use of the small passenger terminal and the area around it.

If the freeholders approve the contract, Syracuse, N.Y.-based C&S Engineering would be paid up to $151,443 to outline the deficiencies of the airport and provide recommendations. The company has worked on a number of other projects at the airport in the recent past, including the installation of safety systems at the end of each runway.

Watson said that with Frontier’s 138-seat aircraft expected to make approximately 36 flights per week, passenger crowding inside the airport terminal is likely to become a problem.

When the airport’s restaurant closed at the beginning of the year, county officials saw an opportunity to reconfigure the airport terminal to avoid the crowding.

Watson said that while the airport will likely need to offer food service to passengers, it may be possible that a portion of the old restaurant space can be used as a smaller “grab and go” food counter with some seating so that the remainder of the area can be used for passenger space.

The restaurant, The Runway, closed after the lease holders could no longer make timely rent payments to the county. The leaseholders told the county that they had insufficient business to pay the full amount.

Since Frontier announced its plans to fly multiple flights from Trenton-Mercer daily, Watson has received phone calls from a number of restaurateurs who are interested in opening something inside the terminal, he said.

The engineering report would also include recommendations for the airport’s parking and the best way to use the open space surrounding the terminal.

The county has already begun construction of a supplemental parking lot at the terminal.

Watson said the study of the airport would only address short-term capacity issues.

In 2006 the county received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to double the size of the airport terminal, but no expansion was carried out. 


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