Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

According to Mcat-test-centers, Raleigh-Durham is a metropolitan area in the state of North Carolina in the United States. The conurbation revolves around the larger cities of Raleigh with 469,000 inhabitants and Durham with 286,000 inhabitants. In addition, there are cities such as Cary with 177,000 inhabitants and Chapel Hill with 61,000 inhabitants. The agglomeration has 2,145,000 inhabitants (2021). Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina and is pronounced rall-lee. A nickname for the region is the Research Triangle.


The metropolitan area is located in the northern part of the state of North Carolina, in a densely forested area. The conurbation is growing very fast and is also called the “Research Triangle”, named after a large research center between Raleigh and Durham. Raleigh is the state capital, although not the largest city. The city is now bigger than more famous cities like Minneapolis, Tampa, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. From 2000 to 2010, the population grew by 46%. The metropolitan area is 95 kilometers east of Greensboro, 225 kilometers southwest of Richmond and 210 kilometers northeast of Charlotte. The urban area is not located on major rivers, but there are some large reservoirs in the vicinity. The Atlantic coast is 185 kilometers to the southeast.

The two largest cities are Raleigh and Durham. Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina and is located in Wake County. Durham is a somewhat smaller city that is located 30 kilometers northwest of Raleigh and is located in Durham County. The largest suburbs are Cary, Apex and Chapel Hill.

Population growth

The agglomeration is divided into the three core counties; Wake, Durham and Orange, and the other counties that make up the Combined Statistical Area (CSA), with Johnston County now becoming a suburban area. The other counties are exurbs in character, with the larger towns in those counties not being considered suburbs of Raleigh or Durham, but small towns on the periphery.

The metropolitan area is divided into two metropolitan areas by the US Census Bureau; the western half in the Durham–Chapel Hill Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and the eastern half in the Raleigh–Cary Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Because it does form a continuously built-up area, the Combined Statistical Area (CSA) is often used in this case. CSAs also cover large rural areas. Large parts of the exurban counties around the cities of Raleigh and Durham are not urbanized. The exact division of counties has changed over the years, especially on the south and east sides where counties have moved to the MSAs of Fayetteville and Rocky Mount.

Population growth started to accelerate from the 1980s, in the period 1990-2010 the population of the region grew from 1.1 to 2.0 million inhabitants, almost doubling. Population growth continued strongly after 2010, but after that it concentrated even more in the suburbs, the growth of Raleigh itself between 2010 and 2020 was clearly less than the decade before.

year Wake County Durham County Orange County Johnston County other 5 counties* total grow
1950 136,000 102,000 34,000 66,000 144,000 482,000
1960 169,000 112,000 43,000 63,000 146,000 533,000 +51,000
1970 228,000 133,000 58,000 62,000 149,000 630,000 +97,000
1980 301,000 153,000 77,000 71,000 163,000 765,000 +135,000
1990 423,000 182,000 94,000 81,000 182,000 962,000 +197,000
2000 628,000 223,000 118,000 122,000 223,000 1,314,000 +352,000
2010 901,000 268,000 134,000 169,000 270,000 1,742,000 +428,000
2020 1,134,000 326,000 149,000 218,000 288,000 2,115,000 +373,000
2021 1,150,000 326,000 149,000 227,000 293,000 2,145,000 +30,000

* the other 5 counties as determined by the US census bureau: Chatham, Franklin, Granville, Person, Vance.

*As of 2018, Lee, Nash and Harnett County are no longer part of the Raleigh-Durham CSA. As a result, the population size is lower than according to previous figures. These counties together had 200,000 inhabitants in 2021.

Road network

The Durham-Raleigh highway network.

The conurbation is just off the major through highway I-95, but I-85 runs along the north side of Durham and I-40 connects Durham/Raleigh with Greensboro and Wilmington. In addition, there are several US Highways, of which US 1 and US 64 are highways. US 264 branches off just east of the city. Beltways exist in the form of I-440 around Raleigh and the new I-540 north of Raleigh. The intention is to complete I-540 one day into a complete ring road of 112 kilometers around the city. SR-147 is a major arterial road from Durham to Raleigh. The motorway network regularly has a substantial capacity and is built on growth.


Raleigh was long a relatively small capital city, and in 1960 had only 94,000 inhabitants. In 1963, the metropolitan area’s first highway was opened, US 1 from Apex to the north side of Raleigh. Part of this would later become Interstate 440. Earlier, in 1960, the double-numbered I-40/I-80 opened between Greensboro and the west side of Durham, but the highway was of little importance to the urban area then, except for a quick connection to the major cities in the middle. of North Carolina created. By 1970, I-440 around Raleigh was largely completed. The I-40 was built relatively late around Durham and Raleigh, the first sections of the highway only opened around 1974. It wasn’t until 1988 that I-40 was completed past Durham. The highway ended on the west side of Raleigh for a long time,

The Durham Freeway (SR-147) first opened in 1970 in downtown Durham. Construction went quite smoothly, although the highway was completed in 1974 to I-40, but only around 1997 to Interstate 85, which provided better access to the city of Durham. In 1997, the first section of Interstate 540, which should eventually form the large ring road of Raleigh, also opened. Most of this was completed in 2007 along the north side of Raleigh. In 2005, US 64 opened on the east side of Raleigh, providing freeway access to the city in more and more directions. This all coincides with the very rapid population growth in and around Raleigh. In 2010 it had grown to an agglomeration of more than 1.3 million inhabitants.


The region’s largest project is the completion of the Interstate 540 beltway. This is currently still missing along the southeast side of the agglomeration. Raleigh actually has two ring roads, the I-40/440 and I-540.

Interstate 885 (East End Connector) is being constructed in Durham.

Traffic intensities

Traffic intensities are not yet extremely high because traffic flows are highly dispersed due to the region being a multi-centre conurbation. The busiest stretch of road is I-40 between Durham and Raleigh, with up to 192,000 vehicles per day. On most other highways, traffic volumes are between 80,000 and 140,000 vehicles per day. [1]


Durham and Raleigh are not particularly prone to traffic congestion. Raleigh is in the middle of American cities in the TomTom Traffic Index. Within the Southeastern United States region, congestion is comparable to larger cities like Charlotte and Jacksonville. [2]

There are not many traffic jams yet, but the region is growing rapidly and this mainly causes problems on exits and the SR-147 in Durham plus the I-440 on the west side of Raleigh which still have 2×2 lanes. 2×4 lanes occur regularly while the intensities are still relatively low. As a result, there are hardly any major traffic jams on the highways themselves, barring incidents.

Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina