Construction resumes at RDU, so give yourself a little more time to get through

The return of spring weather means the restart of construction work that could slow things down for travelers at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Last summer, RDU began repaving park-and-ride lot 3 and John Brantley Boulevard, the road that circles through the airport past the terminals and the parking decks. Both projects were paused for the holiday and winter seasons.

That work resumes on Monday. About 1,300 of the 3,824 spaces in Economy Lot 3 will be closed, making parking tighter throughout the airport. When the lot gets full, travelers will be directed to parking decks near the terminals or to Economy Lot 4 on the north side of the airport.

The repaving of John Brantley Boulevard will begin about April 20 and result in some lane closures and detours. Workers will also begin changing traditional and electronic signs along the roadway, which also could slow traffic.

RDU visitors should expect some delays, airport officials say.

“With new expansion and restoration construction projects occurring throughout campus, we encourage travelers to add time to navigate the airport and parking lots prior to their flight departure time,” airport president and CEO Michael Landguth said in a statement.

Travelers may also notice construction work out on the main runway, west of Terminal 2. Starting this month, workers will begin replacing large slabs of deteriorating concrete to prolong the life of the 33-year-old runway until a new, parallel one can be built.

The work will require shutting down the runway for 18 hours at a time, mostly overnight. That means more flights will take off and land on the airport’s other commercial runway, in front of Terminal 1. Because that 7,500-foot runway is too short for overseas flights, the main 10,000-foot runway will be opened each day after the new concrete has cured for the arrival and departure of the London and Paris flights.

The runway rehab work will be done until June, when it will be suspended for the hot summer months before resuming in the fall.

The new runway is expected to cost $350 million and will be 1,500 feet longer than the one it replaces, in hopes RDU can secure a direct flight to China. At that length, airport officials say, a large jet full of passengers, luggage and the extra fuel and provisions needed for a flight to Asia could take off in all weather conditions.

Landguth worries that the federal government will not provide enough funding for the new runway. While the Federal Aviation Administration won’t commit to providing any money for the runway until the airport makes a formal request in another year or two, Landguth says FAA officials have told him not to expect more than $35 million unless Congress provides more money.

In the meantime, RDU expects to spend more than $12.5 million replacing worn-out concrete so it can continue to use its main runway.

A record 12.8 million travelers passed through RDU last year, a 9.7 percent increase over the year before.

For more information about the airport construction projects, including whether the parking lots and decks have reached capacity, go to www.rdu.com/refresh/.

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.