People traveling through Raleigh-Durham International Airport should arrive at least two hours early starting Monday when renovations to the main parking deck begin, airport officials say.
The $4.5 million maintenance and repair project will affect most of RDU’s seven-level, 11,000-space “ParkRDU” Central garage, excluding the ground-level Premier zone.
The work will require the contractor, Georgia-based Tendon Systems, to close off up to 1,500 spaces at any given time. The work could impact passengers going into RDU’s busiest season – late spring and early summer – when the parking structure tends to fill up several times a week, usually Monday through Thursday.
“Once we close a section, it takes about two weeks for cars to clear out before work can begin,” said Michael Landguth, RDU’s president and CEO. “Therefore, there will be times when large, mostly empty, sections will be visible to customers.”
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The work comes at a time when RDU is seeing record passenger growth. Last year, more than 11 million people traveled through the airport. This tops the airport’s previous record, set in 2000, of 10.4 million passengers. It also represents a 10.4 percent increase in passengers from 2015.
Maintenance and repairs to the parking structure include repairing and sealing beams, drainage improvements, pressure washing and striping. The oldest section of the parking structure was built in 1986, and the newest section was completed in 2003.
“That’s 14 years old,” Landguth said. “It’s hard to even begin to fathom how many millions of cars have passed through these spaces since the garage opened. As you can imagine, so many cars plus decades of all types of weather will inevitably take a toll, and just like your house or your office, the facility is starting to show its age.”
Landguth emphasized that there were no safety issues associated with the project.
The goal is for the work to be completed by the end of the year. The impact should be less during the holidays because holiday leisure travelers usually prefer to park in the economy lots, RDU spokesman Andrew Sawyer said.
But the airport is still putting in place several new programs, including a free parking concierge service, to help mitigate disruptions that may result from the work. Airport officials also will rely on a new construction mascot – a bulldog named Patch – to get the word out about construction through signs and social media.
The parking concierge program, which kicked off a few weeks ago, runs from 4:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Contracted staff help customers locate open parking spaces and find lost vehicles, as well as provide jump starts and shuttle customers from remote parking areas to the atrium on electric vehicles.
The airport also will add buses to economy lots to reduce wait times to less than 10 minutes. There are more than 9,000 spaces in economy lots, off National Guard Drive and International Drive, with 24-hour shuttle service to the terminals.
People picking up someone from the airport are encouraged to use RDU’s free cellphone lot, at 1000 Trade Drive, until the passenger is ready to go.
As part of a separate project this year, the airport also will begin replacing its parking access and revenue control system, which is expected to make it possible for RDU to start its long-awaited online parking reservations. The system will let travelers book and pay for parking online at parkrdu.com, ensuring they have a place to park even at the busiest times of the year.
The online reservation system is expected to be fully in place by Jan. 1, but certain parts of the garage may see the service sooner as it’s phased in. Online booking was expected to start in May 2016, but was delayed by software issues.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-829-4845; @KTrogdon