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RDU's new terminal nears takeoff

The north concourse of the $570 million Terminal 2, which replaces the red-roofed Terminal C, is expected to open this fall.

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MORRISVILLE, N.C. — Raleigh-Durham International Airport showed off progress on its new terminal Wednesday as the $570 million project taxis through its final weeks before an expected takeoff this fall.

The north concourse of the new Terminal 2, which supplants the red-roofed Terminal C, will feature 19 gates, seven security checkpoint lanes and 26 shops and restaurants in 550,000 square feet. The south concourse will add 13 gates, another seven security lanes and 17 more retailers when it opens in early 2011.

Some of the merchants expected in the new terminal are 42nd Street Oyster Bar, Carolina Ale House, A Southern Season, Brooks Brothers and Apple iPod.

Terminal C was built in 1987 as a hub for American Airlines and was designed primarily for passengers changing planes. With the demise of American's hub, however, officials said fewer than 5 percent of RDU's passengers now change planes at the airport.

So, the new Terminal 2 has been designed to move passengers quickly and easily to and from their gates. The open interior combines wood trusses with steel and glass walls. Ticketing kiosks will allow passengers to check in for any airline from a single location.

American, American Eagle, Delta, United, Midwest Connect and Air Canada will initially fly out of the terminal. Continental, Northwest and US Airways will move to Terminal 2 when the south concourse opens.

Beneath the passenger areas, a state-of-the-art baggage sorting and handling system will be able to process up to 1,600 pieces of luggage an hour, including screening them for explosives.

“Terminal 2 has been 20 years in the making,” Teresa Damiano, RDU's director of marketing and customer service, said in a statement. “Our customers tell us that what they love most about RDU is convenience. With Terminal 2, the Airport Authority takes convenience to the next level with the latest in airport design and innovation.”

When finished, Terminal 2 will be three times the size of Terminal C and and will accommodate about 11.4 million passengers a year, officials said. About 10 million passengers used RDU last year.

Despite the slowing economy and cuts in service announced by several airlines, RDU officials are confident the terminal will pay off in the long run, spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said.

"We are lucky. We serve a region that is very dynamic and has done very well. Our growth here at the airport is dependent on the growth of our region," Hamlin said. "We know that, just like other airports around the country, we may see some (economic) impact.

"Luckily, we are building a terminal that meets current demand and will position us for the future, but we have been very conservative on the growth percentage that we are looking forward to in future years."

Terminal C will be demolished as Terminal 2 is completed, and the blue-walled Terminal A will be renamed Terminal 1. Damiano said the name change is in line with how other airports label their terminals and also addresses the sometimes confusing lack of a "Terminal B" at RDU since the early 1990s, when it became an extension on the north end of Terminal A.


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