The new Liberty Street bridge over the Business 40 work zone opened Saturday afternoon, giving drivers another option for traveling north and south downtown.
Liberty Street used to pass under Business 40.
With the “deep cut” renovation of the downtown freeway, Liberty Street now crosses over.
“We think it is going to help our business,” said Erica Reece, one of the managers of Willow’s Bistro at 300 S. Liberty St. Reece said business slowed when the Liberty Street underpass closed.
The latest bridge opening leaves only three bridges for motor vehicles remaining for new construction: Bridges at Cherry and Marshall streets, and the new bridge to carry Business 40 over Brookstown Avenue.
Pedestrian bridges will cross the new Business 40 at the Strollway downtown, which is near the new Liberty Street bridge, and at Green Street, to the west of Broad Street.
The bridges at Cherry and Marshall streets were the last to come down, since those crossings remained open for travel while the bridges at Main and Church streets were under construction.
When the bridges at Main and Church opened, the Cherry and Marshall bridges were taken down and work continued on the new Liberty Street bridge.
For months, business owners downtown, especially south of the Business 40 work zone, have complained that the closure of north-south connecting roads have put a dent in their businesses.
Tony Di Lisio, the owner of Di Lisio’s Italian Restaurant, said Monday that the closure of Marshall Street made his lunchtime business hard to predict. He discontinued serving lunch, but he isn’t sure whether the opening of the Liberty Street connection will be enough to persuade him to start serving lunch again.
“My nighttime has stayed good,” he said, adding that he drove over the new Liberty Street bridge for the first time Sunday night. He hopes the new bridge will help business.
“It is going to look beautiful,” Di Lisio said, talking about the road work.
Meanwhile, the new Liberty Street bridge is not the only improvement related to the Business 40 project that has opened.
The long-delayed project to widen Academy Street at its intersection with Peters Creek Parkway is finally open in its new alignment, which gives an extra lane to motorists approaching the intersection from the east on Academy Street.
The widening was one of what the state called off-site improvements, meaning they are not directly part of the Business 40 work.
The other major off-site improvement was the work done to widen Eighth Street to four lanes as a westward extension of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive on the north side of downtown.
In both cases, Academy Street and MLK were seen as roadways that would get a lot of extra traffic because of the Business 40 closure, which went into effect last November.
With the old alignment, Academy Street had two westbound lanes as it approached Peters Creek Parkway. Right-turning traffic and vehicles going forward shared the right lane, and left-turn traffic had a left-turn lane.
Now, each movement has its own lane: A middle lane takes traffic straight ahead at the intersection, with left- and right-turn lanes for the other motorists.