WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Board members for the North Carolina Department of Transportation got an up-close look at the Business 40 project for the first time Wednesday afternoon.
The board took a bus to tour the area, its transportation projects, and heard presentations from local transportation leaders throughout the day. Stops included Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway, the Deere-Hitachi Assembly Plant and Wells Fargo Center, where they got a look at the Business 40 Project from above.
Around 3:15 p.m., the board stepped off the bus onto the Cherry Street bridge, where they met with Business 40 project leaders and got a glimpse into the scale of the project from the ground.
“From this close, yeah, it’s an impressive project,” North Carolina Department of Transportation Board Chairman Mike Fox said.
Before the highway closed in November, many were preparing for major backups and delays. However, through about four months of the project, there have been few major issues.
“Anybody who might drive through here knew this was going to happen and they could start planning months ahead of time,” Fox said, crediting an abundance in communication for the lack of problems associated with the project.
Fox also touched upon the timetable for the project. Originally, it was supposed to take about two years. Recently, it was announced that with a little luck the project could be a thing of the past come 2020.
“They might be able to make even more progress if we get some dry weather,” he said.
The project is designed – among other things - to make driving on the stretch of Business 40 less hazardous and prepare the roadway for an increase in area population.
“The merge lanes were short and so you were always worried is someone going to merge into you and I think it’s just going to be a much better driving experience and it’s going to be a safer experience for everybody,” Fox said.
Fox added that the experience is an opportunity for the entire board, from the mountains to the coast, to learn from what’s going on with the project and apply that knowledge to projects in their areas.
“I think a lot of folks have seen today, you can do something dramatic like closing a major road, to get it done quicker and be more efficient,” Fox said.
The board will reconvene for a meeting Thursday at 9 a.m. at the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in Winston-Salem.