January 27, 2016

New Passenger Terminal Planned For the Trenton-Mercer Airport

Trenton-Mercer Airport in Ewing Township will get a new passenger terminal to accommodate the dramatic increase in the number of travelers since Frontier Airlines began flying out of the facility in 2012. Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes described the nearly $50-million project during his annual State of the County address January 21 at a luncheon sponsored by the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce at the Hyatt Regency Princeton.

“The growth at the airport has been incredible,” Mr. Hughes said. “Close to a million passengers move through the airport each year.”

In the fall of 2014, a $7-million project to enlarge the waiting area, add a new baggage claim facility, and expand parking lots was undertaken, financed by funds recovered through airport revenue. But it wasn’t enough. The growing popularity of the small airfield off of Interstate 95 has created an increasing need for more space both inside and outside the terminal.

“At current levels, we will continue to bring $2 million per year through the airport, and those funds are available to reinvest into future improvements,” Mr. Hughes said. “Our region can support even further growth at the airport. But the passenger terminal is almost 50 years old, and much too small and outdated to handle that volume. We will miss too many opportunities if we don’t address this issue now.”

The County will “expedite the planning process and move aggressively” to design and build a new terminal. The project could take up to four years.

Before the Denver-based Frontier Airlines took over operations of the airfield, several carriers had tried and failed to turn it into a viable alternative to Philadelphia and Newark airports. The most recent was Eastwind, in 1995. Most residents were unfamiliar with Frontier when the airline came in, but the carrier has successfully marketed itself as a more convenient, and often less costly alternative to the larger carriers at bigger airports.

Education, Mercer at Play

Also at the meeting, Mr. Hughes announced the creation of the Mercer County Partnership for Educational Attainment, to strengthen the credentials of the local workforce. “Economists agree that education is the single most important factor in determining regional economic success,” he said. “And improving educational attainment is probably the single most important thing we can do for the future of our region.”

Jianping Wang, the new president of Mercer County Community College, will serve as chair of the panel. The presidents of Princeton, Rider, and Thomas Edison State universities, and The College of New Jersey, have been asked to participate, Mr. Hughes said. His goal for the new commission, which will also include business leaders and other stakeholders, is to increase the percentage of the County’s workforce with a college degree or equivalent by one percent, or about 2,500 people, over the next five years.

Mr. Hughes spoke of plans to authorize a second round of grants for the Mercer at Play program, which provides grants to municipalities for construction or rehabilitation of local recreational facilities. The object is to encourage people, particularly children, to use the facilities to improve their health and fitness.