RDU is fastest-growing airport but other transportation changes needed to continue Triangle growth

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BySamantha Kummerer WTVD logo
Saturday, July 22, 2023
RDU named fastest growing large airport in US
Raleigh-Durham International Airport had 190,000 more seats available on planes this July than last.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Raleigh-Durham International Airport had 190,000 more seats available on planes this July than last. This expansion gained RDU the top spot for growth among large airports in the U.S.

The added seats stem from the 20 new nonstop flights RDU added already in 2023.

The need for expansion is evident in the airport's passenger numbers. RDU is on pace to beat 2019's record numbers.

"You'll see construction all over campus right now. Really, every area of the airport we're going to touch -- from when you park to when you get to the curb, check-in, go through security, and get to your gate," explained Stephanie Hawco, RDU's director of media relations. "Expanding security lanes, adding more gates, expanding the terminals, all of that is on the table in the next years."

To continue to keep up with the area's growth, the airport has plans underway to significantly expand parking spots and construct a new runway. Officials said these additions are needed to not only keep current residents happy but also to continue to make the area attractive to future residents and businesses.

"The airport really drives population growth here. One of the things that businesses look for when they relocate or expand in an area is connectivity to the places where they do business or to places where if they're relocating, their employees want to go back and visit to see family and friends," Hawco explained.

It's not just the airport that is part of that mission.

"We're not going to see the growth that we're forecasting if we don't continue to make investments in roadway and transit in multimodal complete streets, bicycle and pedestrian accommodations and such," explained Alex Rickard, the deputy director of the NC Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The need for improvement of roadways and public transportation options has plagued the Triangle for years.

"I lived in L.A. and the Cleveland area, and we had it, you know, in both places. So then when I came here, I thought it was going to be the same. And it's not," said Raleigh resident Melanie Miller about a public transit system.

The lack of fast and affordable connections around the Triangle has left many residents feeling the struggle on the roadways.

"Brier Creek is very congested, it's constant traffic every day; all day. Like, it never stops. So I should have done my research. But, you know, you live and you learn," said Raleigh resident Niya Burnett who wishes she would have considered the local transportation options before moving.

Officials pointed to recent progress on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) projects and FAST infrastructure study as ways leaders are looking to finally address these gaps.

These developments are expected to better link Triangle communities and RDU.

"Those BRT corridors and there are several planned ... provides a catalyst almost for future development, too. So we're hoping to see more development occur along those corridors where there are transit services and it would reduce the number of single vehicle trips there are throughout the region," Rickard said.

For the vehicles still on the road, Rickard said leaders are planning for that as well.

"In addition to the specific transit routes that are planned out and the different municipalities, there's an effort to make sure that our highways and our freeways are developed in such a way as additional widening projects and other freeway projects come along that those facilities can be designed and built in such a way to accommodate future transit," he said.

Rickard said for these transportation improvements to continue Wake County leaders need to increase coordination on land use decisions.

"The connection between land use decisions and transportation decisions cannot be overstated," he said.