Recent heavy rains are forcing a week-long delay in the closing of Business 40 for construction, highway officials said, with the new closing time set for 6 a.m. Nov. 17.
The new schedule also moves back a weekend closure of Peters Creek Parkway at Business 40 that was to have taken place this weekend. That closure now occurs the weekend of Nov. 9-11.
The N.C. Department of Transportation held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to announce the changes.
Pat Ivey, the division engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation here, said the work site at the Peters Creek bridge received over 2 inches of rain last Friday, or two-thirds of the amount of rain that typically falls during the entire month of October.
Ivey said highway officials and the contractors decided it was best to delay the closing date, which was originally set for Nov. 11.
The closure will now start on a Saturday. Previously, highway officials had decided to close the road on the Sunday before Veteran’s Day.
“Barring any additional major weather, we believe we will be able to meet that (new) date,” Ivey said.
The rain and cooler temperatures, plus forecasts of additional rain Thursday and Friday, means it is taking longer for soil to dry at the Peters Creek Parkway bridge work site, said Mezak Tucker, the resident engineer for the transportation department here.
Highway officials said the Peters Creek Parkway bridge will close to traffic at 9 p.m. on Nov. 9, a Friday, and reopen Sunday afternoon around 5 p.m. The bridge is being built in phases. The closure will allow workers to finish tying in the newer section of the bridge to the part built earlier.
The parkway bridge and interchange with Business 40 have to be finished before the Business 40 closure can take place, since the Peters Creek Parkway interchange will remain open and become a major access route on the west side of downtown during the closure.
Highway officials said the delay would actually help with the completion of one of the other pre-closure projects, the widening of Academy Street at the Peters Creek Parkway intersection.
Ivey said that project had been delayed, so that delaying the Business 40 closure means contractors have more time to catch up on that work.
Ivey said the other major pre-closure project, the widening of Eighth Street from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to the intersection with Cherry and Marshall streets, should be finished in time to help with increased traffic loads on MLK once Business 40 closes.
The Eighth Street work includes adding a second left-turn lane from southbound Marshall Street leading to the Eighth Street intersection, so that more motorists can line up to make the turn.
During Wednesday’s news conference, highway officials said they don’t believe the week-long delay in closing Business 40 will have any major impact on the overall timetable of the Business 40 work.
Engineers did consider that the delay means the Business 40 closure will now take place closer to the busy Thanksgiving period, but decided not to create any further delays.
Noting that paving work needs to be done to tie in the Peters Creek Parkway bridge and interchange, Tucker said there’s not a lot of opportunity to do paving and related activities at that time of year.
“It puts you into December, and ... once you get into December time frame, your window of opportunity for doing those activities on the job really diminishes due to weather or temperature conflicts,” Tucker said.
When Business 40 shuts down, contractors will also be closing off Liberty, Main and Church streets where they cross Business 40, since plans call for the removal and replacement of those bridges during the earlier part of the closure.
That eastern section of Business 40 will reopen in the summer of 2019, if plans go according to schedule. At that point, work will shift to replacing the bridges and roadway on the western end of the Business 40 project between Cherry Street and Peters Creek Parkway.
The Business 40 closure affects a 1.2-mile section of the downtown freeway, which will be torn up and replaced along with all the bridges in between Peters Creek Parkway and the Hamilton Bridge, which is just to the west of the U.S. 52 interchange.
On the west side of the city, Business 40 will remain open between the Interstate 40 split and Peters Creek Parkway. To the east, Business 40 will remain open from the I-40 split in Guilford County to U.S. 52.
In addition to bridge and roadway replacement, the Business 40 work will give the freeway longer ramps, wider shoulders, attractive bridge enhancements and a 55 mile-per-hour speed limit.