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Work continues on Business 40 on Thursday in Winston-Salem.

Could it be? Really? The revamped Business 40 could be open by the end of the year?

We don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up only to crush them later, so let’s just say there’s a strong possibility — a strong, welcome possibility.

When the renovation of Business 40 — at some point we’re going to have to start saying “Salem Parkway” — was first planned, the project was expected to take two years. So anticipating its completion now, just past the halfway mark, feels like a miracle.

What a Christmas present this would be.

“A lot depends on how much is done over the next six to eight weeks,” Pat Ivey, the division engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation here, told the Journal’s Wesley Young last week. “We certainly want it open sooner rather than later. Certainly they (the contractors) would like to get it done if not at the end of the year, then immediately after the start of the year.”

They’d like to get it done, for one reason: because they can maximize their financial incentives by opening the freeway to traffic by Dec. 31. After that date, the incentives drop over time.

The work crews have been doing an incredible job. Even before the highway closed, they were busy consolidating various aspects of the project and working overtime to move the schedule ahead.

But there’s more to it than work schedules; the weather has to cooperate, too. And how well that happens is anyone’s guess.

The temperature has to reach at least 50 for workers to put down asphalt, which means that paving operations are limited to the daytime. “We are at the point right now where weather is critical for paving,” Ivey said.

According to Monday’s forecast, every day this week will qualify. That’s good news.

The closing of Business 40 has made city life a little more difficult. Hardest hit, perhaps, has been the business community, both downtown and in adjacent neighborhoods south of town. Some shops have suffered. A few closed.

But Winston-Salemites and pass-through commuters have for the most part taken the inconvenience in stride, practicing patience and learning detours without causing much neighborhood disruption.

While we’re waiting on the highway paving, other work is being completed. Brookstown Avenue under the new overpass is likely to open around Thanksgiving, the new Cherry Street bridge in early December and the new Marshall Street bridge around the end of the year. Each new opening restores a bit of the infrastructure we took for granted, until it was lost.

Even when Business 40 does reopen, construction will continue for several more months.

“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.

But on the first day that the smooth, wide surface of the Salem Parkway opens, we’ll all be celebrating.

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