Midtown Raleigh News

RDU’s refurbished Terminal 1 opens Sunday

Workers ride the escalator to the second floor of newly renovated Terminal 1 at RDU International Airport Friday with artwork "Metamorphosis," by Martin Donlinis behind them.
Workers ride the escalator to the second floor of newly renovated Terminal 1 at RDU International Airport Friday with artwork "Metamorphosis," by Martin Donlinis behind them. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Years of building and rebuilding at Raleigh-Durham International Airport will come to an end Sunday when the first passengers pass through a refurbished Terminal 1.

The $68 million effort to modernize Terminal 1 follows the construction of new parking decks, a new general aviation terminal and a new Terminal 2 on the site of the demolished former Terminal C.

For the first time in more than 15 years, there are no major construction projects planned at RDU, said spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin.

“We’ve put the infrastructure in place that will serve us for the next 20 to 25 years,” Hamlin said.

Terminal 1 was known as Terminal A when it opened in 1982, clad in blue, and for years it was the airport’s main terminal, serving all airlines except American and the now-defunct Midway.

After the opening of Terminal 2 in 2008, Terminal 1 now houses only Southwest Airlines and its subsidiary AirTran. The first departure Sunday will be the 6 a.m. AirTran flight to Atlanta.

The two airlines, which handle about 2.2 million passengers a year at RDU, will use five gates in Terminal 1. There are four other gates available for future expansion.

The renovation replaced the terminal’s blue panels with translucent and silver ones that better match Terminal 2. The building has been updated throughout, with more natural light and 11 new shops and restaurants, including a Char-Grill and the ACC American Cafe, the first restaurant licensed by the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The next big project at RDU will be the demolition of two parts of Terminal 1 that are no longer needed. The north end of the building, which includes RDU’s first permanent terminal built in 1955, will come down, as will the south end, which was built in 2001.

Planning for the demolition has only just begun, Hamlin said, and the buildings won’t disappear for two to three years.

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