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RDU wants to build extended runway for non-stop China service, but funding a barrier

<p>Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons</p>

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Raleigh-Durham International Airport wants to expand so it can accommodate more international flights, including non-stop flights to China. 

In a master plan called RDU Vision 2040, the airport plans to build a new extended runway and new terminal to accommodate increased travel from Asia. 

“China wants to travel. By 2040, they will be traveling four times more than the United States,” said Michael Landguth, president and CEO of RDU. “We can get them to experience the things that we enjoy as citizens of the state of North Carolina.”

With the new proposed runway that would span 11,500 feet, Landguth said that people could travel from the Research Triangle to anywhere in the world. He expects to mostly receive Boeing 767 and 777 aircrafts, which require expanded taxiways. 

The longer runway would also improve conditions for the surrounding area, as airplanes will be higher by the time they leave the airport's boundaries and therefore make less noise, Landguth said. RDU has also partnered with Duke to prevent public health issues. Gregory Gray, professor of medicine, global health and environmental health, tested the facility for the transmission of diseases.

The new runway was originally set for use by 2025. When construction would begin, RDU would still be able to operate from the existing runways. On the aviation side, some aspects of low-weather operations would be impacted, but there would not be any detractions from navigational systems.

But as of now, the airport does not have sufficient funds to pay for the required structure, Landguth said. 

The Federal Aviation Administration will only contribute $35 million to the $350 million runway project, much less than the 50 percent Landguth expected them to pay. 

The News & Observer reported that Landguth said the FAA would not commit to funding anything for RDU until it submits a "formal request"—which would not come for "two or more years." 

“Congress hasn’t done anything for ten years on this issue,” Landguth said. “There is a need for $120 billion over the next five years for the airport infrastructure across the country.” 

To combat Vision 2040's costs, Landguth is advocating for a passenger facility charge, which would charge everyone coming through the airport $4.50, directly financing the creation of the second terminal. Landguth said that even by charging a dollar, RDU could make $6 million a year.

There are currently three runways at RDU, two parallel and one cutting in between. The main parallel runway is 30 years old and in need of replacement. The runway is still structurally sound, but not ideal, Landguth said. 

As a short-term solution, the main runway would be closed 18 hours a day, starting in April. For 90 days, maintenance crews will replace 60 slabs of concrete. Two months later, the same process will be repeated. During this work, arrivals and departures will be moved to the east side of the airport.

“This is just to keep it alive until we get the other runway built,” Landguth said. 

Moving past Vision 2040, Landguth said that there are plans to construct a third parallel runway, but they won’t be strongly evaluated until the late 2030s.