With the start of work on Business 40 improvements downtown less than a month away, people were paying close attention to diagrams and drawings at a public meeting on the project Tuesday afternoon.
The project starts with the renovation of the Peters Creek Parkway bridge and interchange this fall, but it’s the shutdown of Business 40 proper in late 2018 that is wrinkling the most brows.
The mile-long section of the freeway downtown will close for renovations and won’t entirely reopen until the summer of 2020.
“I’m going to have to figure out how to get from eastern Winston-Salem on over,” said Harold Holmes, one of about 160 people who turned out for the N.C. Department of Transportation meeting.
On Tuesday, people were able to look over diagrams showing how the new Business 40 will look and see depictions of some of the beautification planned for the roadway as well. And people were given the chance to give comments on the plans.
Pat Ivey, the division engineer for state highways in Forsyth County, said the project is so close to starting that it would take something pretty major to change the plans now.
“If someone shows us something that is a glaring error, we want to do this right,” Ivey said. “Hopefully we have gotten everything. We have had 10 years of planning. We have bought the right of way. We are getting ready to start construction.”
Mike Baron thinks he’s found something that needs to change: the plans show improvements to the intersection of Academy Street and Peters Creek Parkway as a way of easing the traffic crunch when Business 40 is closed for almost two years starting in 2018.
Baron said Academy needs another lane eastbound at the intersection so that drivers can turn south onto Peters Creek Parkway, without getting jammed up behind the drivers going straight over on Academy.
“I just got very unhappy,” Baron said after saw the plan. “That has got to change. This will be a disaster.”
Ivey told Baron he would have a look at the traffic numbers to see if they support Baron’s concern.
The replacement of the Peters Creek Parkway interchange will occupy much of the coming year, since Peters Creek Parkway is one of the key roads that people will travel when Business 40 shuts down.
The Business 40 project is intended to modernize a roadway built in the 1950s to standards that are now obsolete. The freeway and bridges will be completely reconstructed, lowered and made more level.
The Broad Street exit will close permanently, as well as the Liberty Street ramps. The remaining ramps will be lengthened to make it easier for drivers to get on and off the road.
Pamatina Simmons said that what she worries about is the effect of the construction on people who are having to move: Highway officials say more than 20 dwellings are being removed, some near the corner of Apple and Gregory streets, and others toward the end of Westdale Avenue.
“A lot of the people are upset because they are losing their homes,” she said.
Bank Street resident Nancy Gibson said she’s looking forward to the road project’s completion, and hopes it will stimulate some of the business owners on Peters Creek Parkway to improve the appearance of their businesses.
Gibson said the houses the state is demolishing “needed to go,” but added it is hard when people have to find another place to live also.
“You run out a lot of people who don’t have better options, and that is sad,” she said. “Some people are living on the margin and they are going to have to find another place.”
The state has bought up most of the houses it will take and many stand empty awaiting demolition.
Roland Trask Jr., a logistics trainer with Quest Diagnostics, with an office on Charlois Boulevard here, had a different concern: figuring out a way to move time-sensitive medical samples through Winston-Salem with a major road shut down.
“Delays are going to hurt us, so we are going to have to find alternatives,” Trask said. “We need to find out how to circumvent the construction and reconstruction.”
Still, Trask said it looks like highway officials have good plans for sequencing the work.
Bill Ogburn said the meeting was “good and informative” and likes the plans for the Strollway and multi-use path. The Strollway will get a greenery-filled crossing of Business, and a multi-use path for biking and walking will eventually run along the north side of the freeway.
Anna Smith, who lives in the Nissen Building downtown, said she doesn’t feel as concerned about getting around during construction as she did before coming the meeting.
“I do believe that if they do this right it will be best for the city,” she said.