CARY – Warning that RDU International Airport faces a $2 billion deficit in funds needed for expansion and improvements, the Regional Transportation Alliance on Friday called for new funding in taxes, fees and government support to help meet the gap.
“To resolve the looming capital funding shortfall at RDU, this region must take true ownership of RDU’s financial future, by quickly raising or activating the airport user fees it can, modernizing and increasing local funding, and elevating and aligning the RDU 2040 campus vision with revenue reality,” the report declares.
The group of local business leaders issued a report spelling out the shortfalls the airport faces for improvements such as a new runway. They conclude that a return of air travelers to pre-pandemic levels of 2019 will not be adequate and the issuing of $500 million in new debt will still not meet demands as outlined in RDU’s own 2040 strategic plan.
“While RTA believes the recommendations in this report to be reasonable, our primary focus is not on any particular revenue option – it is to reignite the regional conversation that is necessary to find a viable, sustainable capital investment funding model for RDU Airport,” said Mike Schoenfeld of Duke University who is the RTA 2021 chair.
But the calls for fees and taxes will get a lot of attention. As spelled out in the report, those include:
- Our state government continues to assist, at nearly $20 million annually. We are grateful for these
recurring state investments – however, RDU’s short- and long-term financial hole is larger than that
- Consider seeking legislative authority for non-municipal 1.5% rental car tax ($2m /yr.)
- Consider reserving some hospitality tax revenues in future decades (e.g., start in 2045 +/-?)
- Raise parking fees by $6/day ($10m /yr.)
- implement $2/day airport “access fee” ($10m /yr.)
- Modernize, increase municipal contributions from 4 airport owners to $120,000 or more per year
- Monetize airport lands – with community input to increase potential revenue controlled by RDU
- Lobby for significant discretionary federal funds for main runway (ideally $150m or more)
- Lobby for authority to raise per-ticket passenger facility charge (PFC) by $1 ($6m /yr.), indexing
The alliance said the Triangle region must “take ownership of RDU’s financial future by quickly raising or activating the airport user fees it can, modernizing and increasing local funding, and elevating and aligning the RDU 2040 campus vision with revenue reality.”