Local News

Weak economy could delay projects at RDU

Posted November 20, 2008 11:50 p.m. EST
Updated November 21, 2008 10:52 a.m. EST

— The economy could leave some projects at Raleigh/Durham International Airport struggling to get off the ground.

In October, the first phase of the $570 million Terminal 2 was completed. Its 550,000 square-foot north concourse has 19 gates and houses American Airlines, Delta, United and Air Canada.

“We have a nice first impression to make to people and a very positive lasting impression when they leave,” Raleigh-Durham International Airport spokesman Andrew Sawyer said.

Airport officials predict that the terminal will get heavy use, despite global economic uncertainty. RDU has seen a 2 percent drop in the number of passengers this year, according to a report released Thursday. 

The struggling economy won't affect the completion of Terminal 2, but could delay  renovations to Terminal 1 – formerly Terminal A – by at least two years, airport officials said.

“We would probably spend $250 million to $300 million on that facility, even in a renovation plan, to bring it up to a standard that would be similar to Terminal 2,” said Michael Weeks,  Raleigh-Durham International Airport Authority Chairman.

Terminal 1 will continue to operate as a passenger facility. However, if the money isn't there to bring the building up to par once Terminal 2 is completed, the Airport Authority does have a contingency plan.

“Terminal 1 could be mothballed if the economy really got to that state, to cut back on cost. But we certainly hope that's not one of the options we're faced with right now,” Weeks said.

Weeks said eventually Terminal 2 will be equipped to handle about 11 million passengers a year. Other airlines will move, including Continental and US Airways, when the south concourse is completed in 2011, adding 13 gates.

“Terminal 2 is going to be RDU's primary terminal – it already is. It's a key piece of our transportation infrastructure for the region and it's built for future growth,” Sawyer said.

Terminal 2 replaces the red-roofed Terminal C, which was built as a hub for American Airlines in 1987 and demolished as its replacement was built.

Blue-walled Terminal A was renamed Terminal 1 to bring RDU's naming practices in line with other airports. RDU passengers had often been confused by the lack of "Terminal B," which disappeared in the early 1990s when it became an extension of Terminal A.