Editor’s note: The North Carolina Biotech Center invited Mary Griffith of RDU to write a blog for us to reflect the symbiotic relationship between the growth of RDU and the state’s life science sector.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – North Carolina is well known as a global life science leader. And the people making that possible are also major contributors to the amazing growth of Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
RDU experienced unprecedented growth in 2019, handling more than 14.2 million passengers. There were seven months of double-digit year-over-year growth, and a single-day record of 54,800 passengers traveling through the complex on Dec. 1, 2019.
J.D. Power elevated RDU from a medium to large airport and ranked it ﬁfth in passenger satisfaction in its new category. An RDU restaurant and retail store both earned top awards from USA Today 10Best and Airport Experience News. The Moody’s bond rating agency afﬁrmed RDU’s ﬁnancial performance with another Aa3 senior secured rating.
All of this growth has led to the airport tracking 11 years ahead of initial projections identified in Vision 2040, the airport’s master plan. This plan provides a flexible structure for the airport to grow responsibly and meet the aviation needs of our thriving region.
Flexibility is imperative as the airport faces mounting funding challenges related to growth. What does all this mean? RDU’s Vision 2040 plan focuses on four primary areas: Airﬁeld, Terminals, Ground Transportation and General Aviation.
The initial program has grown to nearly $4 billion due to passenger growth. RDU has already reached passenger volume projections for the year 2031, which requires almost $900 million in deferred projects to be accelerated in order to keep up with passenger demand.
The cornerstone of Vision 2040 is the replacement of RDU’s primary runway, 5L-23R. The new, longer runway will accommodate planes that can fly nonstop to anywhere in the world.
Other major projects include more gates in both terminals; a larger customs facility and additional security checkpoints in Terminal 2; and centrally located rental car and ground transportation facilities to help relieve congestion on the terminal curb and make your transportation experience at RDU more convenient. RDU has also entered a private-public partnership to build a new general aviation corporate campus.
The Research Triangle is a popular market with many carriers considering expansion or entry in the region. RDU has a diverse mix of 10 carriers, which drives competition and helps keep ticket prices low. RDU travelers enjoy ﬂights to 57 non-stop destinations including ﬁve international markets. RDU averaged 607 daily ﬂights in 2019 including commercial, general aviation and cargo.
RDU will invest nearly $2 billion over the next 10 years and nearly $4 billion through 2040 in airport infrastructure and customer amenities. Given current revenue projections, RDU must explore new revenue options to pay for Vision 2040 and support continued economic growth in the region.
RDU is a significant contributor to the region, with economic and connectivity impacts that are reaching new heights.
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(C) N.C. Biotech Center