40 Changes

by YES! Weekly staff

Years ago it was hard to imagine Interstate 40 through Winston-Salem being more than two lanes in each direction. Sure we all dreamed about the day multi-lane glory would make travel beyond the city to our east that much easier, but the reality was hard to envision.

And so it seems with the proposed Business 40 construction project through downtown Winston-Salem, currently slated to begin in 2016. As we reported last week in staff writer Daniel Schere’s cover story “The Business of 40,” a lot of people in the Twin City are having a hard time imagining the old interstate being closed for two years while state crews replace bridges, demolish access points and repave the 1.2 mile stretch between the West Fourth Street bridge and Church Street.

But with the transformation, both visually and functionally, that downtown Winston-Salem has endured in the last decade, one can only imagine how stunning the city will be once that major thoroughfare, with its narrow lanes and panic inducing access points, is redeveloped along the lines of modern functionality.

Some of the statistics are stunning.

Federal Highway Administration standards call for a minimum of one mile between interchanges and 2,000 feet for weave areas around exits. As anyone who’s ever tried to get off at the Cherry Street exit knows, drivers have a hazardous 150 feet of merge space to avoid traffic coming on the highway from Liberty Street.

The entrance ramp from Broad Street heading east is a death trap, with traffic coming over a hill and from behind a bridge support while new traffic is coming off a sharp curve on a perilously short entrance ramp. We speak from first-person experience.

The transformation of the highway will redefine downtown. Many residents chose the Broad Street access heading east in order to avoid cutting through downtown, but both NCDOT plans call for that interchange to be eliminated.

We encourage patience, and increased citizen participation in the decision making process, as competing plans for interchanges make their way through the formal recommendation process.

The end result should be increased safety and ease of access for this criti- cal business artery. !