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RDU International Expansion Plans Taking Off to Meet Growth

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RDU INTERNATIONAL — The Triangle's main airport is busting at the seams. In the last few months, the number of passengers atRDU Internationalhas increased by more than a third over last year.

The recent boom in travel has been attributed to area growth and special events like theU.S. OpenandSpecial Olympics World Summer Games.

And then there is the Southwest effect.

"We knew thatSouthwestwas going to increase the numbers. We didn't realize how fast and how large their entry into the marketplace was going to increase travel demand in this region," says RDU spokesman Mike Blanton.

RDU is on an expansion schedule, but the increased traffic has accelerated those plans.

"We're finding ourselves having to deal with more of these projects simultaneously than we originally thought we were going to have to when the plan was developed four or five years ago," says Blanton.

Passengers are having to deal with those projects as well. Traveler Angela Gaskin says more travelers have created more traffic and longer lines. "Parking is a nightmare," she says.

But some are starting to see the silver lining.

"Because of construction, the traffic, if you're driving, is really hard. It's really hard. As far as the airport itself, I think that's actually improved, the service has improved," says traveler Linda Larrabee.

The opening date for the new 2,700-space parking deck has been pushed back again to just after the first of the year.

Blanton says more bus drivers have been hired so travelers will be able to get back and forth from the Park and Ride lots much more quickly.