Court hears appeals on relocating business in Tinicum for airport expansion

Posted: September 14, 2011

Should Philadelphia be allowed to buy up property in Tinicum Township to expand the airport and relieve congestions and delays?

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit heard oral arguments from lawyers representing Delaware County and Tinicum Township, where two-thirds of the airport is located and which oppose the expansion, and the city of Philadelphia. No decision was expected immediately.

In August, a lower court ruled that the city could buy land in Tinicum Township for the airport's expansion.

After years of study and public input, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the city's expansion plan in January.

Delaware County, the township, and neighbors have sought to block the airport from buying property needed for expansion, which would level 72 homes to make room for a UPS sorting facility.

The close-knit township regards this as a fight for the heart and soul of the community. Families have lived in the riverfront community for generations. Many work at the airport.

The city sees the expansion as crucial to the region's growth. More than 2,800 airport jobs would be created, along with 3,700 construction jobs related to the project.

The expansion is expected to cost $5.3 billion and will include lengthening two runways, adding a fifth runway along the Delaware River, and building a new commuter terminal, more gates, additional parking, and a ground transportation hub for rental cars.

As part of the plan, 80 businesses around the airport, including the UPS facility, would be moved.

The UPS facility would be relocated to the Lester neighborhood of Tinicum.

Representatives for UPS were not in attendence at the hearing.

Patricia S. Binswanger, attorney for Delaware County and Tinicum Township, said the city was not buying land in Tinicum for the runway, but for UPS.

"Municipalities like Tinicum need some protection from this kind of creeping federalization," she said after the hearing.

Scott Lewis, the attorney for Philadelphia, said the city would be buying the homes from willing buyers. Talks with some homeowners had been suspended pending the outcome of the case.

He also made the point that the project as a whole was safety-related and designed to reduce air-traffic congestion. Tinicum should not be allowed to block the sale of land, he said.

Contact staff writer Mari A. Schaefer at 610-892-9149,, or @MariSchaefer on Twitter.


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