Research Triangle

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"Raleigh–Durham" redirects here. For the airport, see Raleigh–Durham International Airport. For the research park, see Research Triangle Park. For the adjacent geographic area, see Piedmont Triad.

Coordinates: 35°53′N 78°47′W / 35.88°N 78.79°W / 35.88; -78.79

Location of the Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill CSA and its components:
  Durham–Chapel Hill Metropolitan Statistical Area
  Raleigh Metropolitan Statistical Area
  Dunn Micropolitan Statistical Area
  Henderson Micropolitan Statistical Area
  Oxford Micropolitan Statistical Area
  Sanford Micropolitan Statistical Area

The Research Triangle, commonly referred to as simply "The Triangle", is a region in the Piedmont of North Carolina in the United States, anchored by North Carolina State University, Duke University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the cities of Raleigh and Durham and the towns of Cary and Chapel Hill. The eight-county region, officially named the Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill CSA, comprises the Raleigh and Durham–Chapel Hill metropolitan areas and the Dunn, Henderson, Oxford, and Sanford Micropolitan Statistical Areas. A 2013 Census estimate put the population at 2,037,430.[1] The Raleigh–Durham television market includes a broader 24-county area which includes Fayetteville, and has a population of 2,726,000 persons.[2]

The "Triangle" name was cemented in the public consciousness in the 1950s with the creation of Research Triangle Park, home to numerous high-tech companies and enterprises. Although the name is now used to refer to the geographic region, "the Triangle" originally referred to the universities, whose research facilities, and the educated workforce they provide, have historically served as a major attraction for businesses located in the region. The region should not be confused with "The Triad", which is a North Carolina region adjacent to and directly west of the Triangle comprising Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point, among other cities. Most of the Triangle is represented by, and closely associated with, the second, fourth, and 13th congressional districts. The Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill Combined Statistical Area consists of 5,627 square miles (land and water).


Counties contained in the Research Triangle.
  Three core counties: Wake, Durham, Orange
  Additional counties included in Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill Combined Statistical Area, per the U.S. Census Bureau
  Other counties sometimes included in the Research Triangle descriptions

Depending on which definition of the Research Triangle region is used, as few as three or as many as 13 counties are included as part of the region. All of these counties when included hold a population over 2,167,000 people.

* - Most restrictive definition, including only the main counties of Wake, Durham, and Orange[3]
‡ - U.S. Census Bureau definition, taken from the counties included in the Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill Combined Statistical Area
¶ - Most liberal definition of the Research Triangle region, as defined by the Research Triangle Regional Partnership[4]

Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill Combined Statistical Area Population (Census Estimates 2012) 2,037,430

Historical populations[edit]

Historical population
Est. 20132,037,43016.5%


Raleigh, the growing capital of North Carolina.
Downtown Durham, North Carolina.

The Triangle region, as defined for statistical purposes as the Raleigh–Durham–Cary CSA, comprises eight counties, although the U.S. Census Bureau divided the region into two metropolitan statistical areas and one micropolitan area in 2003. The Raleigh-Cary metropolitan area comprises Wake, Franklin, and Johnston Counties; the Durham-Chapel Hill metropolitan area comprises Durham, Orange, Chatham, and Person Counties; and the Dunn micropolitan area comprises Harnett County. Some local media define the region as Raleigh–Durham–Fayetteville. Fayetteville, North Carolina, is over 50 miles (80 km) from Raleigh, but is in the designated market area.

Anchor cities[edit]

Primary towns[edit]

Suburbs with more than 10,000 inhabitants[edit]

Suburbs with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants[edit]

Nearby cities with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants[edit]


Public secondary education in the Triangle is similar to that of the majority of the state of North Carolina, in which there are county-wide school systems (the exception is Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools within Orange County but apart from Orange County Schools). The Wake County Public School System, which includes the cities of Raleigh and Cary, is the largest school system in the state of North Carolina and the 18th-largest in the United States, officially recording an enrollment of 139,599 students on the 20th day of the 2009-10 school year.[5] Other larger systems in the region include Durham Public Schools (about 33,000 students) and rapidly growing Johnston County Schools (about 31,000 students).

Institutions of higher education[edit]

Duke Chapel at Duke University
Old Well at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Memorial Bell Tower at NC State


College sports[edit]

Tip-off of a Duke-UNC basketball game at the Dean Smith Center

With the significant number of universities and colleges in the area and the relative absence of major league professional sports, NCAA sports are very popular, particularly those sports in which the Atlantic Coast Conference participates, most notably basketball.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University Wolfpack in Raleigh, and the Duke University Blue Devils in Durham are all members of the ACC. Rivalries among these schools are very strong, fueled by proximity to each other, with annual competitions in every sport. Adding to the rivalries is the large number of graduates the high schools in the region send to each of the local universities. It is very common for students at one university to know many students attending the other local universities, which increases the opportunities for "bragging" among the schools. The four ACC schools in the state, Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest University, are referred to as Tobacco Road by sportscasters, particularly in basketball. All four teams consistently produce high-caliber teams. Each of the Triangle-based universities listed has won at least two NCAA Basketball national championships.

Three historically black colleges, including new Division I member North Carolina Central University and Division II members St. Augustine College and Shaw University also boost the popularity of college sports in the region.

Professional sports[edit]

Stanley Cup awards ceremony at the RBC Center

The region has only one professional team of the four major sports, the Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL, based in Raleigh. Since moving to the Research Triangle region from Hartford, Connecticut, they have enjoyed great success, including winning a Stanley Cup. With only one top-level professional sports option, minor league baseball and other sports are quite popular in the region. The Durham Bulls in downtown Durham are a AAA Minor League baseball affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Carolina Mudcats, based in Zebulon, 10 miles east of Raleigh, are the Advanced-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. In Cary, the Carolina RailHawks play in the second-level North American Soccer League (not to be confused with the former league of the same name).

The area also had a team in the fledgling World League of American Football - however, the Raleigh–Durham Skyhawks, coached by Roman Gabriel, did not exactly cover themselves in glory; they lost all 10 games of their inaugural (and only) season in 1991. The team folded after that, being replaced in the league by the Ohio Glory, which fared little better at 1-9, ultimately suffering the same fate - along with the other six teams based in North America - when the league took a two-year hiatus, returning as a six-team all-European league in 1995.

Other sports[edit]


With over 1200 active participants in multiple recreation centers and university campuses throughout the area, Research Triangle is home to one of the largest badminton communities in the Southeastern United States. The American Badminton Academy is also located here in a dedicated facility with seven permanent courts. The Academy is unique among U.S. badminton facilities in that it hosts an international player development program run by Dennis Christensen, an Olympic-level coach from Denmark.


Anchored by leading technology firms, government and world-class universities and medical centers, the area's economy has performed exceptionally well. Significant increases in employment, earnings, personal income, and retail sales are projected over the next 15 years.

The region's growing high-technology community includes such companies as IBM, SAS Institute, Cisco Systems, NetApp, Red Hat, EMC Corporation, and Credit Suisse First Boston. In addition to high-tech, the region is consistently ranked in the top three in the U.S. with concentration in life science companies. Some of these companies include GlaxoSmithKline, Biogen Idec, BASF, Merck & Co., Novo Nordisk, Novozymes, and Wyeth. Research Triangle Park and North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus in Raleigh support innovation through R&D and technology transfer among the region's companies and research universities (including Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).

The area has fared relatively well during the late-2000s recession, ranked as the strongest region in North Carolina by the Brookings Institution and among the top 40 in the country. The change in unemployment during 2008 to 2009 was 4.6% and home prices was 2%. The Greensboro metropolitan area was listed among the second-weakest and the Charlotte area among the middle in the country.[6]

Major employers[edit]

Major hospitals and medical centers[edit]

North Carolina Memorial and Children's hospitals in Chapel Hill
Durham VA Medical Center in Durham

The Research Triangle region is served by these hospitals and medical centers:[7]


Freeways and primary designated routes[edit]

The Durham Freeway

The Triangle proper is served by two major interstate highways: I-40 and I-85, their spurs: I-440 and I-540, and seven U.S. Routes: 1, 15, 64, 70, 264, 401, and 501. US Highways 15 and 501 are multiplexed through much of the region as US 15-501. I-95 passes 30 miles east of Raleigh through Johnston County.

The two interstates diverge from one another in Orange County, with I-85 heading northeast through northern Durham County toward Virginia, while I-40 travels southeast through southern Durham, through the center of the region, and serves as the primary freeway through Raleigh. The related loop freeways I-440 and I-540 are primarily located in Wake County around Raleigh. I-440 begins at the interchange of US 1 and I-40 southwest of downtown Raleigh and arcs northward around downtown with the formal designation as the Cliff Benson/Raleigh Beltline (cosigned with US 1 on three-fourths of its northern route) and ends at its junction with I-40 in southeast Raleigh. I-540, sometimes known as the Raleigh Outer Loop, extends from the US 64-264 Bypass to I-40 just inside Durham County, where it continues across the interstate as a state route (NC 540), prior to its becoming a toll road from the NC 54 interchange to the current terminus at NC Highway 55 near Holly Springs. I-95 serves the extreme eastern edge of the region, crossing north-south through suburban Johnston County.

U.S. Routes 1, 15, and 64 primarily serve the region as limited-access freeways or multilane highways with access roads. US 1 enters the region from the southwest as the Claude E. Pope Memorial Highway and travels through suburban Apex where it merges with US 64 and continues northeast toward Raleigh. The two highways are codesignated for about 2 miles (3.2 km) until US 1 joins I-440 and US 64 with I-40 along the Raleigh–Cary border. Capital Boulevard, which is designated US 1 for half of its route and US 401 the other is not a limited-access freeway, although it is a major thoroughfare through northeast Raleigh and into the northern downtown area.

North Carolina Highway 147 is a limited-access freeway that connects I-85 with Toll Route NC 540 in northwestern Wake County. The older, toll-free portion of the four-lane route — known as the Durham Freeway or the I.L. "Buck" Dean Expressway — traverses downtown Durham and extends through Research Triangle Park to I-40. The Durham Freeway is often used as a detour or alternate route for I-40 through southwestern Durham the Chapel Hill area in cases of traffic accident, congestion or road construction delays. The tolled portion of NC 147, called the Triangle Expressway—North Carolina's first modern toll road when it opened to traffic in late 2011—continues past I-40 to Toll NC 540. Both Toll NC 147 and Toll NC 540 are modern facilities which collect tolls using transponders and license plate photo-capture technology.

Public transit[edit]

Triangle Transit bus
Chapel Hill Transit bus

A partnering system of multiple public transportation agencies currently serves the Triangle region. Raleigh is served by the Capital Area Transit (CAT) municipal transit system, while Durham has the Durham Area Transit Authority (DATA) system. Chapel Hill is served by Chapel Hill Transit, and Cary is also served by its own public transit systems. However, Triangle Transit, formerly called the Triangle Transit Authority (TTA), works in cooperation with all area transit systems by offering transfers between its own routes and those of the other systems. Triangle Transit also coordinates an extensive vanpool and rideshare program that serves the region's larger employers and commute destinations.

Plans have been made to merge all of the area's municipal systems into Triangle Transit, and Triangle Transit also has proposed a regional rail system to connect downtown Durham and downtown Raleigh with multiple suburban stops, as well as stops in the Research Triangle Park area. The agency's initial proposal was effectively cancelled in 2006, however, when the agency could not procure adequate federal funding. A committee of local business, transportation and government leaders currently are working with Triangle Transit to develop a new transit blueprint for the region, with various modes of rail transit, as well as bus rapid transit, open as options for consideration.[8]


Raleigh–Durham International Airport (RDU)[edit]


RDU welcome sign
American Airlines Boeing 777 touches down at RDU
Southwest Airlines jet landing at RDU

The General Assembly of North Carolina chartered the Raleigh–Durham Aeronautical Authority in 1939, which was changed in 1945 to the Raleigh–Durham Airport Authority. The first new terminal opened in 1955. Terminal A (now Terminal 1) opened in 1981. American Airlines began service to RDU in 1985.

RDU opened the 10,000-foot (3,000 m) runway, 5L-23R, in 1986. American Airlines opened its north-south hub operation at RDU in the new Terminal C in June 1987, greatly increasing the size of RDU's operations with a new terminal including a new apron and runway. American brought RDU its first international flights to Bermuda, Cancun, Paris and London.

In 1996, American Airlines ceased its hub operations at RDU due to Pan Am and Eastern Airlines. Pan Am and Eastern were Miami's main tenants until 1991, when both carriers went bankrupt. Their hubs at MIA were taken over by United Airlines and American Airlines. This created a difficulty in competing with US Airways' hub in Charlotte and Delta Airlines' hub in Atlanta, Georgia for passengers traveling between smaller cities in the North and South. Midway Airlines entered the market, starting service in 1995 with the then somewhat novel concept of 50-seat Canadair Regional Jets providing service from its RDU hub primarily along the East Coast. Midway, originally incorporated in Chicago, had some success after moving its operations to the midpoint of the eastern United States at RDU and its headquarters to Morrisville, NC. The carrier ultimately could not overcome three weighty challenges: the arrival of Southwest Airlines, the refusal of American Airlines to renew the frequent flyer affiliation it had with Midway (thus dispatching numerous higher fare-paying businesspeople to airlines with better reward destinations), and the significant blow of September 11, 2001. Midway Airlines filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on August 13, 2001, and ceased operations entirely on October 30, 2003.

In February 2000, RDU was ranked as the nation's second-fastest growing major airport in the United States, by Airports Council International, based on 1999 statistics. Passenger growth hit 24% over the previous year, ranking RDU second only to Washington Dulles International Airport. RDU opened Terminal A south concourse for use by Northwest and Continental Airlines in 2001. The addition added 46,000 square feet (4,300 m2) and five aircraft gates to the terminal. Terminal A became designated as Terminal 1 on October 26, 2008. In 2003, RDU also dedicated a new general aviation terminal. RDU continues to keep pace with its growth by redeveloping Terminal C into a new state-of-the-art terminal, now known as Terminal 2, which opened in October 2008.[9]

Carriers at RDU International Airport:

Public general-aviation airports[edit]

In addition to RDU, several smaller publicly owned general-aviation airports also operate in the metropolitan region:

Horace Williams Airport in Chapel Hill

Private airfields[edit]

Several licensed private general-aviation and agricultural airfields are located in the region's suburban areas and nearby rural communities:

Lake Ridge Airport (8NC8) in Durham


These licensed heliports serve the Research Triangle region:

A number of helipads (i.e. marked landing sites not classified under the FAA LID system) also serve a variety of additional medical facilities (such as UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill), as well as private, corporate and governmental interests, throughout the region.


Notable shopping centers and malls:

Northgate Mall in Durham

Super-regional enclosed malls[edit]

Major shopping centers[edit]

Other shopping centers

Notable locally based or independent retailer:


Film festivals and events:

Notable performing arts and music venues:

Theatre and dance events:

Music festivals:


Greater Raleigh metropolitan area, North Carolina museums
Museum nameImageCityTypeNotes
Ackland Art MuseumAckland Art Museum.jpgChapel HillArt
Ayr MountAyr Mount, Saint Mary's Road, Hillsborough (Orange County, North Carolina).jpgHillsboroughHistory
Bennett Place State Historic SiteDurhamHistory
Carolina Basketball MuseumChapel HillSports
Carolina Tiger RescuePittsboroScience
Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh
Contemporary Art Museum, Raleigh.jpg
Duke HomesteadDurhamHistory
Joel Lane Museum HouseRaleighHistory
Kidzu Children's MuseumKidzulogo.pngChapel HillChildren
Legends of Harley Drag Racing MuseumRaleighSports
Marbles Kids MuseumMarbles-Kids-Museum-20080321.jpegRaleighChildrenformerly Exploris
Meredith College GalleriesRaleighArt
Mordecai MansionHistoric Mordecai House-Raleigh-NC-13 Sept 2010.jpegRaleighHistory
Morehead Planetarium and Science CenterMorehead-Planetarium-at-UNC.jpgChapel HillSciencehome to astronaut training for years
Museum of Life and ScienceNCMLS logo.gifDurhamScienceincludes small outdoor zoo
North Carolina Museum of ArtWest Building Entrance Canopy.jpgRaleighArtexpanded in 2010
North Carolina Museum of HistoryNorth-Carolina-Museum-of-History-20080321.jpegRaleighHistoryalso home to North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame
North Carolina Museum of Natural ScienceNorth-Carolina-Museum-of-Natural-Sciences-20070321.jpegRaleighScienceannual BugFest and Astronomy Days
Raleigh City MuseumRaleighHistory
North Carolina State CapitolNorth Carolina State Capitol, Raleigh.jpgRaleighHistory
North Carolina State University Insect MuseumRaleighScience
Nasher Museum of ArtNasherMuseum.jpgDurhamArt
NCCU Art MuseumRaleighArt
Page-Walker Arts & History CenterCaryHistory


The area is part of the Raleigh–Durham–Fayetteville television designated media area and is the 24th-largest in the country with 1,143,420 households (2012) included in that area and the top television market in North Carolina.[10][11] It is part of the Raleigh–Durham Nielsen Audio radio market (code 115) and is the 42nd-largest in the country with a population of 1,365,900.[12]

The Raleigh–Durham–Fayetteville market is defined by Nielsen as including Chatham, Cumberland, Dunn, Durham, Granville, Halifax, Harnett, Hoke, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Northampton, Orange, Robeson, Vance, Wake, Warren, Wayne, and Wilson Counties, along with parts of Franklin County.[13]


Numerous newspapers and periodicals serve the Triangle market.


Offices of the Herald-Sun in Durham


Online only[edit]



The Triangle is part of the Raleigh–Durham–Fayetteville Designated Market Area for broadcast television. As of 2012, the area had risen one spot to the 21st-largest in the country with 1,143,420 television households, surpassing Charlotte which dropped two spots in list.[14] This area includes these television stations:


Raleigh is home to the Research Triangle Region bureau of the regional cable TV news channel News 14 Carolina.


The Triangle is home to North Carolina Public Radio, a public radio station/NPR provider that brings in listeners around the country. Raleigh and a large part of the Triangle area is Arbitron radio market #43. Stations include:

Map of the Triangle[edit]


Primary cities and towns

A - Raleigh
B - Durham
C - Chapel Hill
D - Cary
E - Morrisville
F - Apex
G - Holly Springs
H - Fuquay-Varina
I - Garner
J - Knightdale
K - Wendell
L - Zebulon
M - Rolesville
N - Wake Forest
O - Hillsborough
P - Carrboro
Q - Pittsboro
R - Clayton
S - Youngsville
T - Franklinton
U - Creedmoor
V - Stem
W - Butner


1 - Wake County
2 - Durham County
3 - Orange County
4 - Chatham County
5 - Harnett County
6 - Johnston County
7 - Franklin County
8 - Granville County

Parks and bodies of water

a - Research Triangle Park
b - Umstead State Park
c - Jordan Lake
d - Haw River
e - Harris Lake
f - Lake Wheeler
g - Lake Benson
h - Falls Lake

Interstate highways

1 - I-40/I-85
2 - I-85
3 - I-40
4 - I-440
5 - I-540

Other major highways

1 - US 15
2 - US 1
3 - US 401
4 - US 64
5 - US 70
6 - US 401
7 - US 1
8 - US 15-501
9 - US 64
10 - US 70
11 - US 501
12 - NC 147
13 - US 64-264
14 - US 64 Business



North Carolina

See also[edit]

'*Piedmont Atlantic


External links[edit]