Work resumed April 1 on one of the airport’s most important capital projects – the preservation of its primary runway, 5L/23R. After more than three decades of service, the 10,000-foot, concrete runway has reached the end of its useful life due to pavement deterioration. While still safe for flying, the runway adjacent to Terminal 2 now requires regular removal and replacement of deteriorating concrete slabs to allow large international aircraft and heavy cargo planes to continue using it.
The multi-year runway preservation project is critical to the airport’s future. RDU replaced 117 slabs during two 90-day phases of work in 2019: 35 in the spring and 82 more in the fall. RDU plans to replace 100 slabs during the 30-day period between April 1 and May 1. The steep decline in air traffic will allow RDU to close 5L/23R continuously for the 30-day duration and move all commercial flights to RDU’s secondary runway, 5R-23L.
During previous phases of the project, the airport closed the runway each night at 10 p.m. and immediately went to work demolishing, removing and then pouring new concrete in 625 square-foot slabs. The entire process takes about six hours, which left enough time for the concrete to cure before the runway reopened for international flights at 4 p.m. the following day.
RDU is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to replace 5L/23R, which is expected to cost at least $350 million. The new runway is projected to open as soon as 2025, given the environmental review process and construction are expected to take several years.