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The truth is the best defense for rampant name-calling and rumor mongering

Statements uttered and produced by official types in Surry County — school administrators and in the sheriff’s office — were vague and lacked key information.

And because they contained one name, it shouldn’t require the services of a detective to know that the dueling statements were going to be divisive.

A student at North Surry High, in a school-approved improvisational performance Wednesday, made some kind of crack about President Trump which led deputies to conclude that a full-on investigation was warranted.

“Regrettably, the performance included an inappropriate joke about the President,” reads a statement put together by the pros in the Surry County Schools administration.

Perhaps even more regrettably, school officials and investigators left things vague.

By doing so, they left a steaming pile of controversy in the virtual town square for the community to step in — an adolescent prank about to go really bad.

Words, or the lack thereof, matter.

Trolls, start your keyboards

A story about the situation ran Friday morning deep inside the newspaper. It was played just above everybody’s favorite — local crime briefs.

Many days, it would have been easy to miss. But since I had the pleasure of using a good portion of the day sitting in doctors’ offices with my mother and brother, I had both the time and opportunity to find and digest

Television screens were tuned to the impeachment hearings, a useful and appropriate backdrop for reading.

“Student joke about Trump prompts investigation by Surry sheriff’s office,” the headline read.

In 13 paragraphs, we learned that about 45 students at North Surry were in the school’s media center for an improv sketch about jobs in the White House. Improv, of course, means not rehearsed. Off the cuff. On the fly.

With just the tiniest bit of foresight, perhaps someone in the school might have seen where that could quickly go south. But that’s beside the point now.

Anyhow, one of the students proceeded to make a joke so bad and so offensive that it required police intervention. School officials refused to reveal what the kid had said, describing the comment only as being “in poor taste.”

One of the moderators of the Improv Club yelled “Freeze,” a signal for the activity to stop in place.

By then, it was too late.

“Several” complaints, including one from the proverbial “concerned parent,” were lodged with the sheriff’s office. “We’re still doing interviews, speaking with students, learning what was said and the context of the comment,” said Capt. Scott Hudson.

And so it began. Statements were made that lacked substance and sufficient detail. Internet trolls, start your engines.

Snowflakes. Jack-booted thugs. Even the Queen Mother of all political insults (Nazis) started piling up in dark corners of the Internet, comment threads and social media posts.

All over a few off-the-cuff, ill-advised words of a high-school kid.

Take a lesson

A teacher at North Surry, James Moore, had it about right in a comment included in the school’s initial statement.

“As a school counselor and sponsor of the club, it is important to me that we use this performance as a teaching moment for all,” Moore was quoted as saying.

Truer words were never uttered.

But officials, as we’ve mentioned, left the key bits to imagination and supposition, a sure formula for misinformation, innuendo and rising temperatures from adults who long ago forfeited the right to be described as “should know better.”

So what exactly could a kid say to prompt such a response?

A joke about Trump’s girth, comportment or pay-offs to a porn star is one thing. A threat to harm the president, in a high school, no matter how “joking,” is quite another.

We live in an age when schools are shot up with sickening regularity. The threat of violence particularly when modern politics are stirred in, lurks just around every corner.

Uttering a threat, no matter how juvenile, has to be taken seriously. Try making a crack about a bomb while standing in line at the airport or yelling “Fire” in a crowded movie theater.

And that, to me, was a line of demarcation. The Internet commentariat couldn’t wait to start hurling insults comparing deputies to “jack-booted thugs” and those who complained to “snowflakes” too easily offended.

Superintendent Travis Reeves of the Surry County Schools told a colleague Friday that “the social media rumor mill is rampant” but added no other useful contextual details. Hudson was off Friday, so nothing helpful from the sheriff was forthcoming, either.

The sad part is, much of the vitriol could have been avoided had officialdom provided some. Either say, “It was a crude joke and not worthy of police attention” or “All threats, joking or not, must be investigated and reported properly.”

Surry officials could have taken a lesson from their counterparts in Forsyth County who, when confronted by a fast-moving story about a school board member trading in a racist text message about an acting superintendent, opted instead to hide, obfuscate and dither.

Instead of being forthright immediately after that text became known, fearful school officials turned a one-day story into a three-week scandal until some anonymous souls let it be known that the now former board member had accidentally forwarded a crude meme comparing the acting super to a Cosby character.

(Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools officials still haven’t responded to a public-information request made in September about the text and any legal cases or settlements which likely resulted. How public money may have been spent, to put a fine point on the request.)

Words — and images — matter. So, too, does the way we respond to them.


Forsyth County may gain second U.S. House representative but lose a voice solely dedicated to it

Gaining the voices of two new U.S. House members in 2021 may not serve Forsyth County better than having the primary focus of its current representative, according to analysts.

The 2020 congressional redistricting map that cleared the N.C. General Assembly on Friday — but still needs judicial approval — puts all of Winston-Salem, most of Kernersville and about half of Walkertown into the 6th District, currently represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro.

Guilford County would account for 66.59% of the new 6th District’s population. The compacting of the 6th also would mean the state’s third-, fifth- and ninth-largest cities — Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point, respectively — would have just one voice in Congress rather than the current three.

The newly drawn districts would go into effect one the law is enacted, according to state Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, the primary sponsor of the districting legislation, House Bill 1029. A governor can’t veto redistricting maps.

However, the National Redistricting Foundation, a liberal advocacy group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that fights gerrymandering, filed a lawsuit in state Superior Court challenging the redistricting shortly after the bill passed.

“The congressional map passed by Republicans in the North Carolina legislature simply replaces one partisan gerrymander with a new one,” Holder said.

Under the new map, Forsyth County would shift from being the dominant population base (47.81%) in the 5th District to 33.41% for the revamped 6th and just 14.39% in the new 10th.

One possible result: a Forsyth County constituent base accustomed to frequent appearances and assistance from GOP U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx drawing less attention from future 6th and 10th District congressional members, particularly if the 2020 winner of the 6th District is a Guilford County Democrat, and the winner of the 10th District is eight-term GOP U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, who would be swapping in a portion of Forsyth County, the vast majority of Iredell and all of Rockingham, Stokes, Surry and Yadkin counties in the revamped district.

Given recent voting patterns in Forsyth and Guilford counties, the 6th is likely to switch from being a reliable Republican district to a Democratic-leaning one, which may lead Walker to consider running in either the 10th or 13th districts.

“Rep. Walker is going to run where his constituents are, said Jack Minor, a spokesman for Walker’s 2020 reelection campaign.

Because U.S. House representatives don’t have to live in the district they represent, they could choose to run elsewhere from where they are based now.

Walker has represented counties in the 10th and 13th districts, either currently or in the recent past. The redrawn 13th, currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, would contain five counties (Alamance, Caswell, Chatham, Person and Randolph) in Walker’s current 6th.

Combining Winston-Salem with all of Guilford “will likely make the urban Triad voice in Washington weaker rather than stronger, because there would no longer be three representatives speaking with a common voice,” said Zagros Madjd-Sadjadi, an economics professor at Winston-Salem State University.

“On the other hand, it may strengthen the voice of the more rural parts of Forsyth County that are left out of the combined district,” Madjd-Sadjadi said.

Gauging the 10th

For the 10th, the Forsyth County section of mostly Clemmons, Lewisville and Rural Hall would comprise 14.39% of the district’s population base, trailing Iredell (21.47%) and Catawba (18.96%) among the eight counties. It would be the only urban section of the district.

The 10th’s portion of Forsyth County would not be much larger than Rockingham (12.77%) and Surry (10.04%).

“Although much of the discussion of drawing new maps naturally focuses on the likely effects on the partisan composition of the congressional delegation, not enough attention is paid to other effects of new maps, especially on the different localities and communities that are brought together in various districts,” said John Dinan, a political science professor at Wake Forest University and a national expert on state legislatures.

“Whenever a congressional district is drawn to include a range of different localities and communities, this can lead to a contest between candidates with electoral bases in different communities in the district,” Dinan said.

“We saw this with an earlier version of the 12th District in the 2010s after Mel Watt left office, and when the 12th District included parts of the Triad and also Charlotte,” he said. “This led Democratic candidates with bases in these two areas to compete against each other for dominance.”

Next steps

The next step, putting aside the lawsuit filed Friday, is for a panel of state court judges to review the map for any concerns of partisan gerrymandering. That was the reason they rejected the current map and ordered the legislature to draft a new district one.

“The courts still have a huge part to play in this final product,” state Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, said. “We have no way of knowing if this will be the map used in the next election.”

There is no apparent deadline for the judges’ review of the approved congressional map.

The judges encouraged legislators to redraw the congressional map to avoid delaying the March 3 congressional primaries. The State Board of Elections said it needs a congressional redistricting map by mid-December.

“I am disappointed in the new map,” Krawiec said Friday, “in that Forsyth County is split again. I was hoping that it would remain whole.”

State Sen. Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth, and state Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, both said Friday that it is too early to speculate on what the new U.S. House districts may mean, given that the judges still must approve them.

Voting trends

Rural voters have made the 5th and 6th districts among the most reliable Republican seats in North Carolina over the past 35 years. However, given the recent voting trends in Forsyth and Guilford counties, there’s a considerable possibility that the redrawn 6th could lean Democratic in the 2020 general election.

In the 2018 congressional races affecting Forsyth and Guilford counties, there were a combined 196,238 votes cast for Democratic candidates DD Adams (77,054, 5th), Ryan Watts (38,402, 6th) and Kathy Manning (80,782, 13th), and a combined 138,832 votes for Republicans Foxx (60,303), Walker (31,956), and Budd (46,573, 13th).

That reality could spur the same Democrats to run again in 2020, or could attract new candidates encouraged by the potential Democratic lean.

Angela Flynn is the only announced 2020 Democratic candidate for the 6th District; no Democratic has declared for the 5th District.

“If the 6th District ends up looking the way it does in the map currently being discussed in the legislature,” Dinan said, “we can expect a contest in the Democratic primary between some candidates with an electoral base in Greensboro and other candidates with an electoral base in Winston-Salem.

“But there’s no telling which of these types of candidates would prevail in the Democratic primary and likely the general election.”

Reacquainted

McHenry said in a statement Friday on his 2020 campaign website that he will run for re-election in the redrawn 10th.

“Under the new lines passed by the North Carolina General Assembly, I’m thankful I’ll continue to represent the people of Catawba County and my home county, Lincoln.

“In the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to getting reacquainted with old friends throughout Iredell County, while also getting to know the people of Forsyth, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, and Yadkin counties.”

McHenry decried the redrawing of the congressional map in what he called “partisan litigation led by Eric Holder and Democratic special interest groups; this is the reality we face.”

“Over the next year, I look forward to making the case why I’m the best person to serve as the 10th District’s conservative voice in Washington.”

Walker tweeted Thursday that “I love the people of NC and I will keep fighting for them — no matter what liberal attorneys, judicial activists and politicians in Raleigh do in self-interest.” The HB1029 map was drawn primarily by Republicans.

“We’ll continue to serve our constituents wherever the trail leads,” Walker said.

He told Politico that “they have taken the bulk of my district and put the constituents in two other districts, so we’re kind of looking at all these options.”

“I mean, you want to do what’s right, ethically. But if you have the bulk of the people that you represent, have just been — a line’s been moved over — I mean, is that something you take a look at?”

Budd and Foxx did not respond to requests for comment on how their districts are being reshaped, nor posted comments on their campaign websites. Foxx features the downtown Winston-Salem skyline on hers.

Looking ahead

There would be a considerable get-to-know-you phase for McHenry and Walker and their new constituents given that neither has represented Forsyth County during their terms in the U.S. House.

At some point, perhaps by early 2020, Budd, Foxx, McHenry and Walker would have to begin campaigning in their redrawn districts, particularly if they have primary challengers.

The newness of the redrawn districts could chip away at some of the inherent advantages of incumbency, particularly voter familiarity for U.S. House members running for reelection. McHenry hopes to win a ninth term, Walkekr his fourth term) and Budd his third.

The challenge would be modestly lower for McHenry, who lives in Denver in Lincoln County.

Currently, the 10th District contains eight counties, stretching from Catawba in the east to Democratic-leaning Buncombe in the west.

It is likely the redrawn 10th would become more GOP-leaning because McHenry would be trading Bumcombe — the only county he lost in 2018 — for rural and suburban sections of Forsyth County that tend to vote Republican.

Given that Rockingham, Stokes and Surry also are Republican strongholds, McHenry may not find it necessary to campaign in or visit often the Forsyth section of the 10th.

Krawiec expressed confidence that “our House representatives will continue to access federal funds on our behalf as they always have.”

“I don’t believe there will be a huge difference in the legislative process. I think all representatives strive to serve the citizens within their district to the best of their abilities,” she said.

“I have no concerns regarding incumbents McHenry and Walker. I know them both well and they will serve their constituents very well.”

A 14th district?

The representatives may not need to get too accustomed to the redrawn congressional districts.

North Carolina is projected to gain a 14th seat in the U.S. House, reflecting its gain of 1.03 million population since 2010, once the 2020 census is completed. Confirmation is expected in March 2021.

“The maps being drawn up this week, if they are not challenged in court, would be used to elect House members who would serve in those districts from January 2021 to January 2023,” Dinan said.

“After the 2020 Census, new districts would be drawn by legislators and (U.S. House) members would be elected in November 2022 and begin serving in January 2023.”

“Any time a state undergoes a major revision of its congressional districts,” said Mitch Kokai, a senior policy analyst with the conservative leaning John Locke Foundation, “both the members of Congress and their constituents must adjust to the new circumstances.

“It’s happened in North Carolina when the state gained a 12th congressional seat in the 1990s and a 13th seat in the 2000s. It happened again to some extent when courts forced lawmakers to redraw the map in 2016.”

Kokai said that while “constituents might struggle at first to identify their new representative, that representative will want to be ready to handle constituent services for a new group of potential voters.”

“To the extent that the voters are moving into a district with an experienced congressman, that transition might be smoother than a move to a district with a brand new representative who has yet to learn the ropes in Washington, D.C.”


Z-no-digital
One year down - just months to go

The amazing thing about the one-year anniversary of the Business 40 closure is that it comes toward the end of the project.

Consider: When state highway officials decided how they wanted to go about the renovation, it was seen as a two-year closure.

According to that timetable, Pat Ivey said, “we’re just halfway there.”

Ivey, who is division engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation here, instead finds himself fielding questions about whether the contractors really can get traffic rolling on the renovated freeway by Dec. 31.

“It is incredibly amazing,” Ivey said. “Everybody is amazed at how this project has gone and how few impacts there really were. That is not to minimize the impacts that are there. I see it every day out my window with the increased traffic on I-40. There are the business impacts. But certainly not nearly the magnitude we were anticipating.”

At 6 a.m. on Nov. 17, 2018, construction workers blocked off the old Business 40 downtown for the last time, also blocking off the bridges at Main and Church streets as well as the underpass on Liberty Street.

Demolition crews got to work right away, bringing in big track hoes that looked like giant dinosaurs feeding on metal. When the work week started, traffic clogged First Street, Northwest Boulevard, Fifth Street and others.

Taking care of business

Businesses downtown started feeling the pinch.

“I think from where I stand, I’m anxious for the reopening,” said Jason Thiel, the president of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership, a group that promotes downtown business and residential interests.

“I think we all knew that this project had to be done,” Thiel said. “For us, it is like a surgery. You have to have it, but it still doesn’t make it any easier.”

Business owners on the south side of the work zone may have felt the pinch more than others, with the severing of some major auto and pedestrian links.

At Willow’s Bistro, in a restored railway freight warehouse off South Liberty, management started laying off staff before the closure, knowing business would be down. But even places further away, like Sweet Potatoes on Trade Street, reported business being off by 25 percent or more.

For all the foreknowledge and advance preparation, some people just stayed away from downtown because of the construction, Thiel noted.

“We have done a lot of advertising and marketing, billboards and television spots, but at the end of the day it is the perception,” he said. Even if it was only a percentage of people in the suburbs who were not coming in, Thiel said, that percentage made a difference.

“I have heard lots of challenging stories,” he said.

Dwayne Mitchell, who manages a clothing design and retail store on Brookstown Avenue called Camel City Goods, said the closure hit hard at first.

“It definitely impacted us those first couple of weeks,” he said. “There was an immediate impact, people assumed it was going to be very difficult. But people kind of figured it out and we bounced back. It was like people realized, ‘I could still get downtown.’ It was made a little more complicated, but it became doable. You have your routines and patterns. Business got better.”

Mitchell said he knows some other business owners have had a rougher time. He likes to think also that if the Business 40 closure hadn’t happened, his business would be better than it is.

Jeff MacIntosh, the Northwest Ward council member representing areas like Holly Avenue and West End on the Winston-Salem City Council, said traffic got worse when Business 40 closed, but not as badly as anticipated.

“It tended to be concentrated during rush hours,” he said. “The anxiety about what could have happened did not turn out as badly as we feared. There has been some pain and suffering getting out from the Holly Avenue neighborhood.”

And as for businesses, “I’ve talked to people who have done better and people who have done worse,” he said.

On the bus

The closure of Business 40 was preceded with lots of advice from highway officials about finding alternate routes, taking more time to make the daily commute and using apps such as WAZE to try to avoid the worst traffic clogs.

But with the help of federal dollars, public transit was beefed up as well to encourage people to get their cars off the road and let a bus driver deal with the traffic.

Both the Winston-Salem Transit Authority (WSTA) and the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) put in more bus service before the closure went into effect to make life easier for commuters.

WSTA put in a park and ride service and increased the frequency of bus service on some routes, running buses every 30 minutes instead of hourly. WSTA also started a guaranteed-ride program to keep commuters from getting stranded downtown.

Those programs are still in operation. Donna Woodson, the general manager of WSTA, said ridership is up on some routes, but that overall ridership didn’t go up as much as she thought it would. But people are certainly taking advantage of the more frequent service, she said.

As expected, experience showed the need to make adjustments: Woodson said that after more frequent service was started, one route, 104, turned out to be underperforming, so the extra bus was switched to route 105 back in April. Route 104 goes from the bus station downtown to Teague Road on the south side of town. Route 105 goes between downtown and Southeast Plaza Shopping Center.

Woodson thinks ridership didn’t go up more because people found the delays not as bad as expected when Business 40 closed.

“You have to plan for a bus and add additional time to your day to plan for that,” Woodson said. “If you didn’t have massive delays, they found it was easier to ride in their own cars.”

Over at PART, officials there say they saw a 30% increase in total ridership, in part because of changes that included a new route to Clemmons-Lewisville and more frequent service on the Surry County and Kernersville routes.

PART also signed up 23 companies for a discounted-ride service called XPass, and increased bus trips to downtown Winston-Salem from 31 to 49 per day.

“We couldn’t be happier about ridership,” said Sabrina Glenn, PART’s director of commuter operations.

“We have made minor tweaks over time, hearing from passengers in terms of where they are going and when they get there,” she said.

Glenn said she believes a significant part of the increased ridership is because of Business 40 construction.

“But there is also economic growth in that area, and we attribute (the increase) to the growth as well,” she said.

With the reopening perhaps months away, Glenn said, PART is already considering how to keep the extra services in operation.

John Larson, the city council member South Ward, said his ward has had to put up with more of the traffic inconveniences than any other, “not that other wards haven’t felt it.”

South Ward includes those downtown areas south of Business 40, where businesses saw fewer customers and neighborhoods like those along Academy Street saw more cars.

“We lost one antique shop, Repeat Offenders,” Larson said, referring to the business on South Liberty Street whose owner said the Business 40 closure killed her 2018 Christmas sales and, ultimately, her business.

Loyal customers

Charlie Choi is wearing a smile on his face nowadays at the Fairway One Stop gas station and convenience store on Broad Street, just south of the Business 40 work zone.

Things looked pretty bleak in the fall of 2018, after the state closed off Broad Street and tore down the bridge, leaving Choi high and dry. A lot of customers evaporated with the bridge, but even then, Choi was gratified that people in the neighborhood were still coming by to buy things at his shop.

Choi also picked up new business: Construction workers came by to gas up or get something to snack on during their breaks.

In March, the new Broad Street bridge opened.

“It was a very difficult situation during the close,” Choi said this week. “After the bridge opened back, it was better. Now it is good. It is not back to how it was before they closed it.”

The Broad Street exit ramps are gone for good, so even when Business 40 reopens, Choi said, he won’t get the full benefit. Even though the business the construction workers bring may go away when the project is done, he said, he’s in for the long haul. He’s even added new slushy machines and a new coffee machine.

“We have good neighbors and a good neighborhood here, and they are very supportive,” he said. “I’m happy here and very thankful.”

Terry Miller, owner of Twin City Hive Coffee Lounge, said the roughest time for his business was when the Marshall Street bridge was torn down before the Liberty Street bridge was reopened. That was out of order under the original game plan, but highway officials decided it was a good move to speed the project overall.

Twin City Hive is at the corner of Brookstown Avenue and Marshall Street. Sales dropped to only a third of normal levels, Miller estimated.

“There was no walkability from downtown to here,” he said. “They had detours for the cars, but that part was rough for us. Things are doing better now than they were in June. There seems to be more traffic coming our way, but people are still having a hard time getting back and forth downtown.”

Miller’s not badmouthing the renovation. With the new Strollway bridge going in place and with a bike path alongside the renovated freeway that connects to BB&T Ballpark, more people will be walking, he said. And drinking coffee.

“We are excited,” he said. “We are hearing the end of December could be the date. I’m very thankful if they finish early. I see them all the time at night, working all through the night to get it done.”

East side story

Eastern Winston-Salem might not sit beside the Business 40 work zone, but it has “borne the brunt of a lot of traffic,” said Annette Scippio, who represents East Ward on the city council. As drivers approach the closure from the east on Business 40, she said, they clog local streets.

“The so-called experts think they know people’s behavior,” she said. “The whole thought was that people would come all the way down to MLK or take 52 north or south. But people got off on Fifth Street because the traffic was backed up to Fifth Street. The amount of traffic that backs up every morning and every afternoon, we have to tolerate it. The locals know some of the little shortcuts to avoid that. We are really looking forward to having our neighborhood back.”

On the other hand, Scippio said, the extra traffic brings more visibility to that side of town. And that should help development, she said. People can see there’s no place to stop and get a cup of coffee, she said, if they want to get out of traffic.

“The good news is that a lot of people have gotten to see the east side of town,” she said. “They can see that there are some good neighborhoods. I love the fact that they can see our neighborhoods as they develop and try to get funds for housing and economic development.”

Virginia Hardesty, owner of Forsyth Seafood Market and Cafe, said business sank when Business 40 first closed. The business is on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive close by Business 40.

“I think maybe the biggest thing was that people were using the bypass (Interstate 40) and not coming through at all,” she said. “We have a lot of dependable customers and they found their way back. Some of the older customers may have a harder time, but a lot of them came back, too.”

Now, she said, business has pretty much recovered. Hardesty thinks she might have even picked up a few folks who didn’t know she was there.

“We have weathered the worst of it,” she said. “It is a blessing to be open.”

Next steps

For a clue on how long it might be before Business 40 reopens, take a look at the thermometer each day. If it is 50 or higher, workers can put down asphalt, Ivey said. This time of year, nights get too cold to pave.

“Now, we are pretty much limited to paving operations during the day,” he said. “We are at the point right now where weather is critical for paving.”

Recent days brought weather where it didn’t even climb out of the 40s, which put the kibosh on paving.

Concrete work can be done when it gets below 50, said Larry Shaver, resident engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation here.

“We want that temperature to stay above 40,” he said, “We just don’t want the temperature to fall below 35, especially for the first three days.”

If it’s cold, you might even see workers tucking an insulating blanket over fresh-poured concrete. Since concrete gives off heat as it cures, a blanket keeps that heat close by.

One thing to keep in mind, highway officials said, is that when Business 40 does reopen, the end of all construction will still be months away.

“The reopening means all lanes and all ramps, with the understanding that there will be times outside of peak hours, maybe sometimes during the day, there may be some lane closures and even full road closures at night,” Ivey said.

There could be a lot to do over those months, Ivey said. Workers will put signs in place, including signs that bear the new name, Salem Parkway, that the downtown freeway will bear when the project is finished.

Some final surfacing may take place on the Eighth Street widening part of the project, for instance, or at Academy Street and Peters Creek Parkway.

One of the biggest post-opening projects will be the completion of the new Green Street pedestrian bridge. It’s a suspension bridge, and it won’t be finished by the time the roadway reopens. The bridge has temporary supports in the median that can’t be removed until the suspension cables are in place.

“The contractor is working on a plan to allow us to keep working on the bridge while opening traffic underneath,” Ivey said, noting that it will be work on the Green Street bridge that forces any night closures.

If the contractors can get Business 40 reopened by Dec. 31, they will earn the highest amount of incentives that were put in place to speed construction. But despite fears some people have been expressing on social media, Ivey said no corners are being cut. Standards aren’t being “compromised to get it done quicker,” he said.

Ivey said he’s lucky to have been with the project from start to what will be the finish next year. Most road engineers don’t get that chance “on a cool project like this,” he said.

“This is the culmination of a decade of work,” Ivey said. “It is satisfying to see it finally coming together.”