Closings and delays due to Michael

Business 40 Improvement Project full closures weeks away

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The first full closure of Business 40 for the Business 40 Improvement Project is no longer years or months away. It’s weeks away.

Some time in November, the highway will be shut down near Winston-Salem’s downtown, forcing traffic onto neighboring highways and secondary roads and causing delays and congestion. Even if you don’t travel Business 40 regularly, there is a good chance the closure will impact you.

The NCDOT says there is no set date for the closure to begin. There are other projects still incomplete which need to be finished before the closure can take place. Once contractors handling the other projects give the DOT a date they’ll be able to finish, the DOT will make an announcement, according to Greta Lint, Business 40 Project public information coordinator.

“We know that it’s going to be some delays in traffic. We know that, I think everybody knows that,” Lint said.

When the closure begins, westbound drivers will be forced to exit at or before U.S. 52. Eastbound drivers will need to exit the highway at or before Peters Creek Parkway. This closure is expected to continue for more than a year.

The Fourth Street, Broad Street, Brookstown Avenue, Marshall Street, Cherry Street, Liberty Street, Main Street and Church Street bridges will also be closed. However, they will be done at different times, ensuring that there is access to the entire city once drivers exit the highway.

The Spruce Street bridge will be permanently closed. NCDOT says new bridges for the Downtown Strollway and Green Street pedestrian bridge will be built during the closure.

On Tuesday, residents and business owners/employees visited BB&T Ballpark for the latest look at project details. There, state officials were able to answer questions and people were able to look at an interactive map showing which detours they will need to take when the closure begins.

Representatives from the Piedmont Authority Regional Transportation and Winston-Salem Transit Authority were also in attendance. PART has expanded bus routes and is offering discounts for individuals and businesses interested in providing transportation for employees. WSTA now has a guaranteed ride program to enable some park and ride passengers to get cabs free of charge in case of an emergency.

“You can hear about stuff, but if you get firsthand visuals, I think you’ll get a better understanding,” said Johnetta Perry, a lifelong Winston-Salem resident.

NCDOT has also partnered with Waze to bring people real-time traffic information in and around the project site.

“In my experience living in Winston, folks are very much last minute. They don’t really kind of process things until it really is happening. So, I think it’s gonna be a shock to the system the first few months when people are like, 'Oh, OK, Business 40 is closed, I need to figure out how to get to where I’m going,'” said Darren Schwartz, general manager of the Great Outdoor Provision Company, who visited the open house to ensure his employees were able to give their customers accurate directions during the closure.

Eighty-thousand vehicles travel Business 40 every day, according to NCDOT. About half of those drivers are simply passing through. Those drivers will be encouraged to use Interstate 40 during the project.

“This is a state-wide construction project,” Lint said, when asked to put the impact on drivers into perspective.

NCDOT says drivers should plan to add 20 to 30 minutes to their everyday commutes and trips through the city.

NCDOT says about 10 years ago, massive surveys were conducted to ask people if they wanted single-lane closures, two-lane closures or a complete shutdown. Close to 70 percent of responses said to shut down the entire highway.

“I said, ‘Do it all at one time,’” said Melinda Yarbrough, who took the survey.

The project is still set to be accelerated thanks to incentives allowing contractors to bring in subcontractors. The timeline for the project is now expected to be 14 to 15 months, instead of 20 months.

“I’m looking forward to the improvements and I can deal with it,” Yarbrough said.

A second open house is planned for next week. It will take place at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts, located at 251 N. Spruce St., from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

For more information on the project, click here.