Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Official outlines $13M in Trenton Mercer Airport (KTTN) improvements, expects traffic to double by 2017

EWING — With the addition of Frontier Airlines flights out of Trenton-Mercer Airport, county officials said the number of passengers there will more than double by 2017.

About 325,000 passengers use the airport each year, but that number is expected to increase to 875,000 by 2017, Aaron T. Watson, director of the county Department of Transportation, told the freeholders tonight.

“It has finally provided reliable commercial transportation for this previously underserved population,” Watson said. “It would be reckless and irresponsible for us to not exploit the full potential.”

Watson outlined $13 million in airport improvements the freeholders have been asked to approve, which include adding more parking to accommodate the passengers and improving a runway to allow for planes that fly to Frontier’s destinations across the country.

Tonight, 1,222 vehicles were parked in the airport’s lot, which has only 1,150 spots, Watson said.

“Right now we’re through the ears,” he said. “The time is now. We need to build parking lots.”

Temporary parking structures are being explored, including a matting material that can be placed over grass.

Cars can park on the mat and grass can grow through it, but if parking on the area is discontinued, the mat can be rolled up and used elsewhere, Watson said.

“It’s eco-friendly. It goes right over top of the grass, and the grass grows right over it,” he said.

The mat could allow for an additional 650 spaces, Watson said.

“This we know we can get done by the time we know they need to have it up,” Watson said.

Frontier is expected to have 70 weekly flights out of the airport by June, and that will require 1,700 parking spaces, Watson said. There are 57 weekly flights now, he said.

Improvements to the runway would allow for planes that can fly farther distances, he said. Those planes hold 20 more seats and are only slightly larger than the planes that fly out of the airport now, he said.

“Really, when you look at it, you wouldn’t notice a difference,” Watson said. “In order for them to get out west, they’re going to have to fill that plane to capacity, and in order for it to be profitable, they have to fill more seats.”

Hopewell Township residents who have been outspoken about the level of noise from the airport since the increase in commercial traffic began have requested the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct a noise study.

That study has been started, but Watson said tonight he had no information about it.

“They’re going to take a look at what the effects are, and they should, quite frankly. They want to be good neighbors,” Watson said.

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