A new milestone in the Business 40 renovation will be reached Friday morning when ramps to and from South Main Street are opened to link to Business 40 near U.S. 52.
Crews are scheduled to open both ramps about 5 a.m., before the sun rises and rush-hour traffic starts, according to a state highway official.
“We are excited,” said Larry Shaver, the senior assistant resident engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation in Forsyth County. “We are going to get some relief out to the east side of town.”
With the ramps open, drivers traveling west on Business 40 will no longer be forced to exit at U.S. 52. Instead, they can use the one lane that will be open over U.S. 52 to the new Main Street exit, where they’ll have got off Business 40.
Similarly, drivers downtown can get onto eastbound Business 40 at Main Street. Once on Business 40, they will have the full range of options at the U.S. 52 interchange: They can take ramps to go north or south on U.S. 52 or continue straight on Business 40 toward Kernersville.
Shaver said he expects a lot of traffic on the newly opened section as commuters are joined by the curious.
“This is brand new for everyone, and everyone is going to go see it,” Shaver said. “With the morning rush-hour traffic, I expect there to be some congestion. Everyone is going to want to come and see the new route. You’ll get a chance to see the new retaining walls. It is definitely worth coming to take a look at.”
In November 2018, officials closed Business 40 between U.S. 52 and Peters Creek Parkway to make it easier and quicker to completely renovate the freeway through downtown.
The $100 million project includes lowering much of the Business 40 roadbed to create more clearance beneath the overpasses; provide longer on- and off-ramps; and reduce the number of exits.
State highway officials have long promised to open up the eastern end of the project as soon as possible and ahead of the full freeway reopening.
Mark Owens, the president of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, said the reopening shows the DOT’s commitment to the business community.
“Especially people around the Wells Fargo tower will like having that ramp open,” Owens said. “The DOT is working hard so that the business community can have full access downtown.”
Shaver said electronic message boards will let drivers know the Main Street connection is open.
Westbound traffic on Business 40 will still be reduced to one lane as it approaches U.S. 52 because highway officials don’t want drivers to repeatedly change lanes. People who want to go north on U.S. 52 will take the exit they do now.
Past that exit, the lane will continue over U.S. 52 and lead to the ramp onto southbound U.S. 52. However, westbound drivers will see a new option: A left exit that takes them to Hamilton Bridge and the Main Street off-ramp.
“The primary route still goes to U.S. 52 South, but you will have an exit for Main Street,” Shaver said.
Drivers won’t be able to get to Main Street from U.S. 52 just yet. That will have to wait until the whole project is finished.
“We didn’t want to add to the congestion by opening U.S. 52 South to Business 40 West, and we’re keeping the loop closed to westbound Business 40 (from U.S. 52 north)” Shaver said. “We didn’t want to put all that traffic into downtown because it is just a ramp.”
Meanwhile, drivers who get onto Business 40 east from Main Street will have a full selection of three lanes as soon as they get to Hamilton Bridge.
The new ramps aren’t in their final marking pattern. Traffic will be shifted to the outer edges so construction workers can carry out their tasks on the inside portions beside the future travel lanes.
Even with the recent rains, Shaver said he is confident about Friday’s opening because the weather-dependent part of the work has been squared away.
Other significant milestones are approaching, Shaver said.
In late October, work should be finished on lowering the road level where Business 40 passes underneath the Peters Creek Parkway and Fourth Street overpasses. Business 40 will be down to one lane there while that work is going on.
About the same time, workers should be finishing the new bridge taking Business 40 over Brookstown Avenue, allowing Brookstown to be reopened.
Still later, bridges taking Cherry and Marshall streets over Business 40 will be finished.