New Airport Terminal Runs Into Legal Fight A Court Challenge By A Property Owner Could Delay The Opening Of Us Airways' $325 Million Terminal One.

Posted: April 28, 2000

TINICUM — What if you built a $325 million facility but had no way to get to it?

The opening of US Airways' international terminal, named Terminal One, at Philadelphia International Airport is scheduled for spring 2002. But because of a legal dispute, ground has not been broken for the connecting ramps from northbound and southbound Interstate 95.

Some are wondering if that will force a delay.

"Right now there is no other way into the terminal," said Tinicum Council Vice President Norbert J. Poloncarz. "If that road isn't built, you'd have to go into the airport [through the main entrance]. That's a far way to walk to the terminal."

Holding up the $75 million project is a property owner's objection to where the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to build. PennDot, along with other federal agencies, selected the route for the ramp in July.

In mapping the route, the agencies tried to avoid any impact on the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. The proposed route stays at least 100 feet from the refuge, said PennDot spokesman Gene Blaum.

That had a greater effect on property owned by KB Fund II, the owner of International Plaza, formerly Scott Plaza. Saying its property value would be reduced, it has challenged the route in a filing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

KB Fund II also said the agencies did not allow it adequate input in the process and ignored five alternative routes that would have less impact on its property.

Blaum said the planned route would affect about two acres of the property. Four more would be purchased under a temporary easement for the construction process and later returned to the owners, he said.

In January, PennDot condemned the property. KB Fund II responded with a preliminary objection. A hearing is set for May 10 in Delaware County Court.

PennDot officials said they would move forward with the preliminary construction process while the litigation continues. The design plans are complete, with the department aiming to open bids for the project by the end of June, said Vito Genua, the assistant district engineer for design.

Airport officials referred questions to US Airways and PennDot.

"Certainly the ramp is an integral part of the project; it's certainly a complicating factor," said US Airways spokesman Richard Weintraub. He declined to comment on the possibility of a delay in the terminal's opening.

"We have the project as it is now, and the schedule coincides with the opening of the terminal," Genau said. "If for some reason there's some delay, we're looking at some scenarios. We will negotiate with the contractor in accelerating or restaging the work so that there won't be any delay to the terminal [opening]."

Joann Klimkiewicz's e-mail address is jklimkiewicz@phillynews.com

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