Bucks County Courier Times

Fitzpatrick asks feds to halt construction of Trenton-Mercer Airport without more study

A lawsuit was filed by Lower Makefield, Yardley, and members of the group Trenton Threatened Skies.

James McGinnis
Bucks County Courier Times

Bucks County’s congressman has asked the federal government to slow the planned construction of a much larger Trenton-Mercer Airport with a runway that send planes flying over parts of Lower Makefield, Middletown, Upper Makefield and Yardley.

In a letter, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a fourth-term Republican, told U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigeig that an expanded Trenton-Mercer Airport might lead to increased air and water pollution.

Fitzpatrick said the government should conduct a more intensive study of the airport expansion and the potential for “lasting impacts to the southeastern Pennsylvania region and beyond.”

Engineers hired by Mercer County had submitted to the FAA a 392-page environmental report and argued that the airport’s expansion would have little or no impact on the environment. The FAA has approved the project and a lawsuit filed by opponents of the project is unlikely to prevent construction.

What’s happening at Trenton-Mercer Airport?

In May 2022, the FAA approved a project to modernize the Trenton-Mercer Airport and update facilities first constructed in 1975. Visitors to the airport find they must board and exit planes by walking on the tarmac. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, much of the available space for Trenton-Mercer’s two terminals was given over to security and screening devices.

In approving the plans for a much larger airport, the FAA said that the number of passengers at Trenton-Mercer was on the rise and expected to continue climbing. The FAA argued that the plans for the larger airport would not increase air traffic, which was inevitable.

Trenton-Mercer Airport plans to quadruple the size of its current passenger terminal and to construct a parking garage for approximately 1,040 vehicles. The FAA forecasted a 51% increase in flights from Mercer County, rising from 316,665 to 476,507 by the year 2035.

The new Trenton-Mercer Airport could be completed by 2024.

Who is against the Trenton-Mercer Airport?

Plans for the airport were challenged in federal court, though the attorney in the case has acknowledged that a petition filed in the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals cannot stop construction.

The lawsuit was filed by officials in Lower Makefield, Yardley, and members of the nonprofit Trenton Threatened Skies, a homeowners association in Mercer County, as well as 28 residents living near the airport.

Named as defendants in that case are the FAA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Transportation Secretary Buttigieg.

Fitzpatrick’s letter to Buttigieg was dated May 15 and was later shared with the media by the group Trenton Threatened Skies.

On Tuesday, Fitzpatrick sent this news organization a statement outlining his concerns about the airport.

“The FAA has acknowledged that the airport will see an increase in traffic and therefore must undertake the proper steps to review and study the potential public health and environmental risks that could negatively impact the surrounding areas, including possible emissions and chemical contaminations,” he wrote. “As community leaders, we must first make sure that the health of our communities is not at risk and fully understand the lasting environmental impact this will have to the health and wellness of our region.”