Contractors say the second phase of Terminal Two is ahead. The first part of Terminal 2 opened last October.
Friday morning the highest piece of structural steel was hoisted into place atop of what will become the terminal's central atrium.
"This project has glulam [or solid] timbers, it has 5-inch wide cables, the tresses are made up of steel and wood cables which is very unique," said David Marchiori, Archer Western Contractors.
It's a tradition for builders to celebrate the last significant piece of material to go up.
The entire construction crew, contractors and members of the RDU Authority signed the beam.
"We set the first piece of steel almost 3 years ago, so it's a big accomplishment to get it topped out," Marchiori explained.
The celebration comes at the height of an economic downturn. Fewer people are flying and fewer flights are available.
"We have seen the number of passengers drop right along with the number of seats available, so we are down about 12 percent compared to last year," RDU spokesperson Mindy Hamlin said.
Despite that, Hamlin says the airport has been budgeting conservatively and remains on-line to meet revenue projections.
The new terminal has been in the works for two decades and she says even if the economy doesn't recover, the airport sill needs the expansion in order to meet the needs of passengers.
"We've known it's been needed and it's an important part of our infrastructure, and we'll have the infrastructure in place for when the economy turns around," Hamlin said.
Phase two of the terminal is expected to open in the winter of 2011.
"We understand the aviation industry is cyclical, and we planned accordingly," Hamlin said.