Citizens Brush up on Business 40 plans

by Daniel Schere

Winston-Salem residents are beginning to take notice ofchanges occurring along the Business 40 corridor close to downtown over thenext couple of years.

Citizens met Thursday night with representatives fromDavenport, a local engineering firm, to inquire about plans for a 1.2 milestretch between Fourth and Church Streets that will close the freeway for twoyears beginning in May 2016. The plan includes closing the interchange withBroad Street as well as the Liberty and Main Street interchanges.

A number of citizens who live and work near the interstatehave expressed interest in making Liberty and Main two-way streets in order toincrease pedestrian traffic. John Larson, vice president of restoration at OldSalem, said the Business 40 project presents an opportunity to help tiedowntown to the Old Salem community.

“Our belief is these streets are single-directional streetsand the city would be better served by converting them to two ways which wasthe original idea, and basically putting them back into the urban grid,” hesaid. “And right now they act as thoroughfares rather than urban streets.”

Larson pointed to the example of Fourth Street as a roadthat has succeeded due to a two-way traffic flow. He thinks a similar designfor Liberty Street would help places like Old Salem and the Children’s Museum.

“If you look at say, city hall, or you look at the areagoing down to basically the coffee pot, it’s mostly ramps and asphalt,” hesaid.

“The belief then is that Liberty Street is a naturalconnector to Old Salem Road, which is a four lane road right now and it doesn’tneed to be four lanes, because it’s over designed,” he said.

Jason Thiel, president of the Downtown Winston-SalemPartnership, said he also thinks a two-way flow for Liberty and Main wouldattract pedestrian business.

“I think it would be a shame if we weren’t able to do thatbecause that’s slower traffic, that two way pattern would really promotewalkability and retail and shopping and that kind of vibrancy that we see bothon Fourth and Trade,” he said.

Davenport project manager Royal Hinshaw said they are stillanalyzing the best strategy for Liberty and Main, and will be holding anothermeeting in April to discuss it.

Also in attendance Thursday was Geoff Lassiter, whoexpressed concern over the intersection of Green and First streets nearBB&T Ballpark.

“It’s just an area that needs to be emphasized more duringthe closing of how does it operate during ballpark hours,” he said. “It’sdangerous coming across the top of that hill, and as we look to go to two-waytraffic, how do we slow our traffic in downtown areas to create pedestrianfriendly spaces.”

Lassiter said he has stayed in communication with cityofficials over anticipated changes to the area around the stadium.

“Over 300,000 people come to the ballpark on an annualbasis,” he said. It’s the single largest visited facility in our city, andwe’ve got to make sure with the traffic patterns, we’ve got to consider thosebefore the closure.”