Stimulus funds to put shine on RDU

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Jul. 22--RALEIGH -- Raleigh-Durham International Airport will begin replacing some 2,000 runway lights with energy-efficient lights this week, thanks to about $8 million in federal and state funds.

The money came in three installments. The first two installments came in the spring -- $2.5 million from the N.C. Department of Transportation's Division of Aviation and $4.5 million from the Federal Aviation Administration as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The last installment, announced today, was again from the federal stimulus package, to the tune of $1.38 million.

In total, RDU will have $8.38 million to replace 2,000 runway and taxiway lights with energy efficient LED, or light emitting diode, fixtures made by Siemens. The project will also include an upgrade of the electrical equipment lighting vault, which controls and powers the airfield lights.

The airport will also expand its weather and pavement monitoring system, which provides real-time information on runway and taxiway conditions.

RDU spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said the project primarily focuses on the runway adjacent to the new Terminal 2, but some lights on runways for Terminal 1 will also be replaced.

The project is expected to wrap up by May.

"This is a project that has been in the works because of the energy and maintenance cost savings," she said.

Steve Pittman, RDU's deputy airport director of Facilities, Engineering and Maintenance, said in a news release that LED fixtures can reduce energy costs by up to 60 percent, along with tremendous savings in labor over the long run.

LED fixtures last, on average, between 10 and 15 years longer, the airport said. Whereas quartz lights require maintenance every six months, LEDs are expected to last between 5-10 years before maintenance is needed.

"When we learned that airports would be eligible for stimulus funds, we knew this project would be a perfect candidate," Pittman said. "By installing the LED fixtures, we will greatly reduce our energy costs, while also eliminating time-consuming maintenance required for traditional quartz lights."

Under the stimulus bill, the FAA received $1.1 billion to provide discretionary grants to qualified airports, according to the U.S Department of Transportation.

That funding was allocated based on priorities addressing airport safety and security, infrastructure, runway safety, increased capacity and mitigation of environmental impacts.

The stimulus dollars were for so-called shovel-ready projects only.

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