The Twin Arches over U.S. 52 showed what they could do Tuesday night, as local officials counted down and applauded the lighting of what they hope will become an iconic gateway into downtown Winston-Salem.
Joycelyn Johnson, one of the board members of the Creative Corridors Coalition that spearheaded the project, shouted “Let there be light!” as she turned from a podium and watched white lights shining up the metal tubes that form the arches.
Pretty soon, the lights modulated to blue and then purple and green, as city officials put the light array that illuminates the arch through its paces.
The arches have risen over the intersection of U.S. 52 and Research Parkway for months, but they’ve been dark as construction proceeded on the new intersection.
With the close of work in sight, it was time to turn on the light, officials said.
“I think it will become ... a welcoming beacon ... to visitors coming into our city and to citizens coming home after a long day,” Mayor Allen Joines said, as he spoke before the arch was illuminated.
The arches will be lit each night from sunset to sunrise and the standard color will be white, although Joines noted that the arches can change colors to match the team colors of colleges and universities. They can go green and red during Christmas or red, white and blue for the Fourth of July as well, Joines said.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create ... a new front door into our city,” Joines said.
The illumination marks the first major item completed on a list of improvements to the Business 40 area downtown planned by the Creative Corridors Coalition, which raised more than $5 million to spend above and beyond what the state would do and turn the new Business 40 into a showpiece highway.
Other projects waiting in the wings are a new pedestrian bridge to replace the damaged and closed Green Street bridge, and a new Strollway bridge that will take people over the freeway through a corridor of plants.
The original estimate for constructing Twin Arches came in at $3 million. Pat Ivey, the division engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation in Forsyth County, credited Creative Corridors with going to work after the first estimate came in to whittle the cost to $1.6 million.
Ivey said the state put in $750,000 toward the arches, with the city and Creative Corridors picking up the rest of the tab.
The lighting itself cost almost $160,000 to install, with that cost coming from Creative Corridors. An estimate of the electrical costs was not available Tuesday night.
On hand for the lighting ceremony were city and Creative Corridors officials as well as representatives of the contractor, Blythe Construction, and the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Kristen Haaf, who chairs the Creative Corridors Coalition, said that while it has seemed like a long wait for the arches to be lighted, it gives people a glimpse of what the overall enhancements will add once they are all complete.
“We are going to start seeing construction on Business 40, but the Creative Corridors projects won’t really be there until the end,” she said. “But this shows that things are on their way.”
The Business 40 improvement project will close down a section of the downtown freeway for some 20 months starting later this year.
The project’s aim is to improve traffic flow by eliminating some ramps and making the remaining ones longer, and the new road may carry a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit.
Research Parkway, where the new arch rises, fits into the Business 40 plan because it is expected to be one of the main entries into downtown during the period when Business 40 is closed. As well, the parkway leads into the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, which the city touts as its path to a high-tech economic future.