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City plans Salem Lake greenway extension

Winston-Salem will start work over the next year or so on an extension of the city’s greenway system to the northeast of Salem Lake.

Eventually, that short segment of greenway will form part of the Piedmont Regional Greenway, connecting Winston-Salem and Greensboro through Kernersville, officials said.

The new segment will run between Salem Lake and Hastings Hill Road, adding about 1.25 miles to the city’s greenway network.

Along the way, just west of where construction is now taking place on the interchange between Business 40 and the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway, the new greenway will pass under Business 40.

“Right behind East Forsyth High School is a large culvert that goes underneath the highway,” said Robert Prestwood, city engineer. “We will build a boardwalk in one of the culvert barrels so that the water flows under it.”

The “barrels” Prestwood refers to line up four across and pass under both lanes of Business 40, carrying the waters of Kerners Mill Creek under the freeway.

Each barrel is 10 feet wide and 11 feet tall.

Prestwood said one of the barrels can be used to take the greenway under the freeway by constructing a boardwalk through it.

“We have to create models to make sure the work is not going to impede the drainage work of the culvert,” Prestwood said. “The barrel we will use is one that has water in it when it rains, but some have water in them all the time.”

A visit to the site last week before Thanksgiving found water flowing through all four barrels of the culvert, but that was shortly after rain had extensively fallen over the county.

The place where the creek passes under Business 40 is a lowland where old river birches keep company with sycamore and box elder trees.

Prestwood said it will take around nine to 12 months to get the project ready to put out to bid. Construction would start soon after the contract is awarded.

The new section of trail will start on the east side of Linville Road right across from where the existing Salem Lake trail comes out on the north side of the lake. From there, the trail will wander through a wooded area as it roughly follows the creek to the northeast.

After crossing under Business 40, the new greenway will meet up with Hastings Hill Road.

The Winston-Salem City Council recently approved one of the preliminary steps on the project: Allotting about $9,000 for the purchase of temporary and permanent easements over the bottomlands that the new greenway will pass through.

The price is low for that part of the project since most of the land is already owned by the city. However, a small part of the path crosses part of a private tract and another tract owned by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

The estimated cost of construction for the 1.25-mile segment is $1.6 million, although that estimate is a few years old and will have to be updated.

Prestwood said federal transportation money is expected to pick up 80% of the cost of the segment.

By connecting to the Salem Lake trail, the new greenway will give bicyclists and walkers a more extensive range that they can cover: To the west of Salem Lake, the Salem Creek Greenway runs about five miles east to Marketplace Mall.

From Salem Creek Greenway, side paths lead downtown or to the new Quarry Park.

Meanwhile, the city is planning what almost amounts to a westward extension of the greenway to Forsyth Technical Community College.

Called a pedestrian sidepath, the extension will be a widened walkway along Peters Creek Parkway to Link Road, then down Link Road and Lockland Avenue to Silas Creek Parkway.

That project has a $1 million price tag and should be started in 2020 and finish in 2021, Winston-Salem City Manager Lee Garrity said.

There’s no timetable for the completion of the Piedmont Regional Greenway in between Winston-Salem and Greensboro. The greenway is seen as a 19-mile path that links the Watershed trails on the northern side of Greensboro. The part of the greenway in Forsyth County is about 8.5 miles.

The greenway’s passage across the route of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway should be easy because of beltway bridge work that will allow the pathway to pass through, said Pat Ivey, the division engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation here.

Matthew Burczyk, a transportation project planner for Winston-Salem, noted that even linking up Winston-Salem and Kernersville would be an accomplishment, even if the longer trail to Greensboro doesn’t happen that soon.

“Once you get to Hastings Hill, you are nearly in Kernersville,” he said. “It has always been difficult to get to Kernersville.” If the segment that would pass under the beltway were to be built, he said, “we have a few more options to get between the two.”

“Even if we can’t get to Greensboro right away, that connection to Kernersville would be pretty nice.”

Children's Home vote up Monday

A vote comes up today on a city donation toward preserving much of the Children’s Home property in an undeveloped state, among matters considered by the Winston-Salem City Council.

North Ward Council Member D.D. Adams stopped the eight-member council from making a donation on Nov. 18 when she introduced a motion of no consideration as the council debated whether to increase the amount from $100,000 to $200,000.

The no consideration motion automatically stops debate on an issue and requires that it return to the next council meeting for a vote, unless members also vote to reopen discussion.

The Piedmont Land Conservancy is hoping to raise $6.5 million by year’s end to buy the development rights of over 92 acres owned by Crossnore School & Children’s Home on Reynolda Road.

The purchase would ensure that the land, mostly in pasture, remains undeveloped while still being owned by Crossnore. The land preservation group wanted $500,000 from the city for its effort, but a council committee recommended $100,000 instead.

Then, on Nov. 18, several members of the council endorsed raising the donation to $200,000, prompting Adams’ motion of no consideration.

Advocates of the larger donation say the city needs to do all it can to preserve the open land near downtown, but Adams said most people in her ward have other priorities.

Although the Crossnore property is in Adams’ ward and borders the lower-income Boston-Thurmond neighborhood, advocacy of the donation has come mostly from wealthier areas to the west of the site.

Adams has said she is in favor of the $100,000 donation suggested in committee.

The council is also slated to hold a public hearing on a proposed rezoning off Kester Mill Road that resulted in a split vote when it was handled by the City-County Planning Board on Oct. 10.

The proposal is to rezone about 10 acres on the north side of Kester Mill Road from residential and general industrial to limited industrial.

Planning staffers say that since a large portion of the land is zoned general industrial now, changing the zoning to limited industrial would reduce the intensity of industrial uses allowed on that part of the land.

On the other hand, changing the zoning on the residentially-zoned sections would bring industrial uses closer to a residential area.

The planning board split 4-4 on the rezoning on Oct. 10.

FDA to review R.J. Reynolds Vuse electronic cigarettes to assess whether they are safer than tobacco products

The Food and Drug Administration will review whether the Vuse electronic cigarette made by R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. can claim that it is a lower-risk tobacco product.

Reynolds entered the FDA’s regulatory gauntlet Oct. 11 with its submission for premarket approval of multiple Vuse e-cigarette products.

The FDA declined to comment on the Reynolds statement or the planned Vuse review.

The premarket standard requires the FDA to consider products’ existing risks and benefits to the population as a whole, including users and non-users, particularly as it compares with traditional cigarettes.

Reynolds is requesting permission to market Vuse, the No. 2-selling U.S. e-cigarette, as an electronic nicotine delivery system aimed at adult consumers.

“This is a first-of-its-kind application for Vuse products, and it puts Vuse one step closer to gaining a marketing order from the FDA,” Ricardo Oberlander, chief executive of Reynolds American Inc., said in a statement.

“FDA will now review our scientific justification and determine the appropriateness of Vuse e-cigarette products against the public health standard.”

In July, a federal judge gave tobacco manufacturers until May 11, 2020, to file pre-market tobacco applications for e-cigarettes and cigars.

A coalition of seven public-health and anti-tobacco groups sued the FDA in March 2018 to accelerate the timetable from August 2022.

Reynolds said its submission contained more than 150,000 pages of documentation. The FDA also will conduct inspections of manufacturing sites, as well as sites and entities involved in clinical and nonclinical studies.

James Figlar, executive vice president of research and development for Reynolds, said the submission includes “the data and clinical information necessary for predicting the effect of continued marketing of Vuse products on the public health.”

“We surveyed current tobacco users to understand product use behavior and demographics, conducted behavioral studies of current and non-users of tobacco to gauge consumer understanding of risks and interest in product use, and performed statistical population modeling to project the effect on the population as a whole.”

The FDA acceptance of the Vuse application for review comes as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said its investigation into an outbreak of severe vaping-related illnesses is focused primarily on open-pod e-cigarettes in which liquids containing the marijuana compound THC are being vaped.

The CDC has determined there have been at least 2,300 cases nationwide and at least 47 related deaths. The CDC said it has found a “very strong culprit” in the vaping illnesses with vitamin E acetate. Most who got sick said they had vaped liquids that contain THC, the high-inducing part of marijuana.

Meanwhile, there have been few incidents reported involving the closed-pod e-cigarettes sold by the Reynolds and the top-four manufacturers.

On Oct. 12, the chairman of a second U.S. House committee began an attempt to put pressure on Reynolds to curtail, if not halt, advertising of its Vuse products. Vuse began running commercials on national cable channels’ late-night programs earlier this year.

U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., and chairman of the House Oversight and Reform committee’s panel on consumer products, requested Sept. 25 that the leading e-cigarette manufacturers voluntarily stop advertising their products. The manufacturers are not required to respond to any congressional request since Congress doesn’t have the authority to halt advertising.

Gregory Conley, president of American Vaping Association, said “the FDA appears to be under great pressure from the Trump Administration to show that they are actually capable of performing their regulatory duties.”

“It is great that Reynolds’ application is moving along, but the FDA stepping up for one company changes nothing for the hundreds of e-liquid manufacturers that don’t have cigarette profits that they can use to subsidize their vaping product science.”

Scott Ballin, past chairman of the anti-smoking alliance Coalition of Science or Health, said he “remains concerned that the processes that the FDA/Center for Tobacco Products has used in consideration of potentially lower-risk products is costly, burdensome and does not encourage innovation, but rather stifles it.”

“I believe that the agency should be establishing product standards that would allow for great competition in the market place, rather than dealing with products on a one-by-one basis.”

Ballin said that the FDA “laid out a vision” in July 2017 for a new tobacco and nicotine policy “that was to streamline the application processes, regulate based on the continuum of risk, encourage innovation and research, and not stifle it.”

“In two years, little has been done to move things forward as the agency continues to get tied up in rule-making, litigation and numerous issues surrounding e-cigarettes.

“Much of the chaos and confusion could have been avoided,” Ballin said.

On Oct. 22, the FDA approved authorization for eight General Snus styles by Swedish Match USA Inc. as a modified-risk product.

Snus are teabag-like pouches or loose tobacco that users stick between their cheek and gum, but that doesn’t require spitting. They are marketed in part for use in places where smoking is prohibited.

Anti-smoking advocates say the FDA’s General Snus ruling should bode well for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.’s Camel Snus products, which entered the FDA regulatory gauntlet in April 2017.

Reynolds said in a statement Oct. 22 that “we are encouraged that ... the FDA has taken a step forward by allowing a manufacturer to communicate with adult tobacco consumers about the relative risks of tobacco products.”

“We look forward to the agency’s decision regarding our pending application for Camel Snus.”

Reynolds submitted its applications in April 2017, which included more than 450,000 pages of data and extensive scientific research.