Members of the Raleigh City Council and Wake County commissioners, along with officials of Durham and Durham County, could justifiably feel tempted to order some extra noisemakers and confetti for the coming New Year’s party season. After all, the news about growth has been breathless of late.
Consider the Raleigh-Durham International Airport as an example of just how well the area is doing: By the end of this year, the airport known as RDU is expecting to break the record for passengers passing through in a year. That record now stands at 10.4 million passengers. In 2016, airport officials think it could get close to 11 million.
The direct flight to London’s been around so long as to be taken for granted. Now there is a direct flight to Paris. There is even talk of a nonstop flight to China now, though that one may be down the runway a bit.
For those in area who remember the old days and old ways at RDU, long before “international” was in the picture at all, it’s hard to believe. Families in the Triangle used to enjoy bringing their kids to the airport just for the novelty of “watching them take off and land.”
Not that anyone’s longing to go back, of course. But the airport is coping with larger crowds, longer waiting times with security, more difficulty in parking. That said, RDU officials have done a commendable job in trying to keep up, planning to add runways, and upgrading parking decks and adding online parking reservations..
Tensions are building, however, as the airport tries to balance the need to expand with the desires of those who enjoy the large outdoor park areas nearby lobbying to maintain such places, to not give up the land to the pressures for expansion. Airport officials say they’re listening. They need to maintain that posture, just as those who value the preservation of open space need, perhaps, to be prepared to trade some parcels and sites for others.
Because the growth in this area shows no signs of slowing, and it’s what is responsible for the airport’s prosperity — and, the creation of more jobs.
Consider, as reported by The News & Observer’s Paul A. Specht, a list of projects that will proceed toward completion next year in Raleigh. Union Station should be a spectacular addition to downtown, a transportation hub for trains and buses in the Warehouse District, with retail and office use. Nearby, The Dillon, a tower of offices and apartments, will go up 17 stories and use the outer walls of the old Dillon Supply building.
In addition, there’s a small-format Target store coming to a former bowling alley site across from N.C. State University on Hillsborough Street, an expansion of North Hills, a park for North Raleigh, a “Morgan Street Food Hall.”
These projects are part of the region’s welcome, but challenging growth. That expansion needs a major airport that can meet rising demand. RDU, adapting and growing, is doing just that.