Funding Matters

This article originally appeared in the November edition of Your RDU. It is the first of several planned articles on funding. 

One of my duties as president and CEO of the Airport Authority is to watch the horizon for challenges that may affect Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

The aviation industry is particularly susceptible to challenges. Now, our ability to fund development that will keep pace with growth is being challenged.

Federal limits on key airport funding mechanisms may challenge RDU’s ability to remain a vital economic asset and driver.

Congress is in the process of debating the future of the Federal Aviation Administration and, with it, key federally regulated income streams that will determine whether and how we can grow in the future.

But why should this matter to you? RDU has joined with other airports to urge Congress to pass an FAA reauthorization bill that gives us the ability to continue funding key airport improvements.

Funding matters for our economy. As a transit point that serves 9.5 million departing passengers each year and thousands of tons of cargo, RDU is a key contributor to the region’s economic health. A recent study by the N.C. Department of Transportation shows that we pump $8 billion each year into our local economy.

Funding matters for jobs. More than 5,000 employees work on-site at the airport every day. Beyond that, RDU supports 20,000 jobs throughout our region, from transportation providers to hotels to businesses that rely on cargo that arrives and is shipped out daily.

Funding matters for infrastructure. Our recently completed 15-year building program included the new Terminal 2 and parking garage and a major renovation of Terminal 1. Maintaining our facilities costs approximately $30 million a year. Within 10 years, our 10,000-foot runway will reach the end of its design life and require replacement at an estimated cost of $100 million.

While RDU generates 98 percent of its revenue from our own business enterprises, we rely on federal and state grants as well as a critical locally set passenger fee that Congress caps to fund our major facility improvements. In recent years, the money from these programs is being diverted to other uses or simply becoming scarce.

Airport funding matters to this community. We urge you to stay informed about the airport’s financial future, include the airport in discussions about drivers in our region and state, and make airport funding a priority for local, state and federal funding. Help ensure that RDU remains a vital economic asset and driver.

Further reading: How RDU funds operations and capital improvements.