RDU Board Votes to Restart Major Construction Projects

Revised Budget Includes Security Checkpoint Expansion, Roadway Improvements

The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority Board approved an increase of $21.1 million to the fiscal year 2020-2021 budget to support capital and operating expenses associated with increased passenger traffic. The Board reviewed a revised business plan at a special meeting Friday that would restart several projects put on hold during the pandemic in 2020.

The Board heard from Authority staff on a variety of topics, from revisiting capital projects outlined in the airport’s Vision 2040 master plan to how RDU plans to replenish its employee headcount and retain talent with new programs.

“The revised business plan paints a picture of RDU’s future, including growing with the vibrant Research Triangle region and maintaining the airport’s status as a major economic engine for the area,” said Michael Landguth, the Authority’s president and CEO. “As we restart projects that were paused in 2020, we will remain considerate of the thoughtful strategic planning that has successfully positioned the airport to support our region’s growth.”

The virtual gathering marked the second special Board meeting focused on establishing the long-term strategic direction of the airport. The Authority’s current Strategic Plan was developed in 2015. RDU added more than four million total annual passengers in the four years that followed, prior to the onset of COVID-19 and its impact on aviation.

The Authority Board approved Vision 2040, the airport’s master plan for growth, in 2017 to guide decisions about future development. Under Vision 2040, development decisions would be triggered by demand, opportunity and other factors that reflect changing conditions, the business climate and evolving demand. Passenger traffic is now forecasted to recover to 2019 levels by 2024, creating a need for the Authority to reexamine the targets outlined in the master plan and focus on a range of projects that will take several years to fully implement.

Construction projects presented for potential activation include:

  • Completion of the West Remain Overnight Parking Apron for large commercial aircraft; expansion of the Terminal 2 passenger screening checkpoint from 12 to 14 lanes; and completion of improvements to various perimeter security gates.
  • Other discretionary capital projects, such as an expansion of Park Economy 3 and construction of a new rental car storage lot along National Guard Drive; roadway improvements at the intersection of National Guard Drive and Aviation Parkway to accommodate the expansion of parking facilities, also allowing additional commercial site development along Aviation Parkway;  and the Terminal 2 landside expansion program which include a future expansion of RDU’s international arrival facilities.

Budget Amendments: The Airport Authority cut capital and operating expenses in May 2020 and operated on a survival budget intended to sustain RDU through the pandemic. Recent passenger growth trends require the Authority to revisit on-hold construction projects, reinitiate specific capacity enhancement projects and hire more staff. The Board on Friday approved an amended budget that increases capital expenditures for FY 2021-22 by $13.1 million, a 46% increase above the survival budget. The Board also approved an $8 million increase in operating expenses, an increase of 11% over the previous budget.

Human Capital: In January 2020, the Authority had 361 full-time positions and was preparing to recruit more employees to support expansion and record passenger levels. A hiring freeze was enacted in March 2020, leaving RDU with more than 70 vacancies due to retirements and attrition. The Board approved the Authority’s recommendation to add 47 full-time positions and five temporary positions, restore funding for recruitment staffing resources and authorize a compensation and classification study. Recruitment efforts will focus on law enforcement, guest experience, maintenance, parking, operations, traffic control and administrative positions.

RDU posts its annual budget and Business Plan publicly each year via RDU.com.