One of North Carolina’s most heavily-traveled highways, Business 40 through downtown Winston-Salem, will be closing in November for a major overhaul. The result will provide a better driving experience with wider lanes, seven new and higher bridges, longer ramps, an increased speed limit, a modern look, and a new name – Salem Parkway/U.S. 421.
Additionally, there will be two pedestrian bridges and a tunnel. The footbridges will tie into the city’s greenway project, providing a walkable route from the Long Branch Trail at the Innovation Quarter in downtown to BB&T Ballpark.
Business 40 will be closed between U.S. 52 and Peters Creek Parkway for up to 20 months. Drivers are encouraged to find alternative routes ahead of the closure to get through the city.
Westbound drivers can take either Fifth Street, MLK, Jr. Drive or U.S. 52 to get downtown. Once on U.S. 52, motorists can get to the heart of the city by taking either Research Parkway, Liberty Street or MLK, Jr. Drive.
Eastbound drivers can take either Cloverdale Avenue or Peters Creek Parkway. From Cloverdale Avenue, take First Street to get downtown. From Peters Creek Parkway, drivers can take Second Street.
Additionally, the following bridges over Business 40 will be closed for construction:
Fourth Street; Broad Street; Brookstown Avenue; Marshall Street; Cherry Street; Liberty Street; Main Street; and, Church Street. The Strollway and Green Street pedestrian bridges will also be closed.
The Spruce Street bridge will be removed permanently later during construction. The Broad Street bridge has already been removed, but is slated to re-open in the spring of 2019, allowing easier access to downtown.
Additionally, the speed limit will increase from 45 mph to 55 mph. New sound barriers will be installed, and bridges will be designed with brick to tie into the look of downtown Winston-Salem.
Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said, “Once completed, the project and the additional aesthetic features will give Winston-Salem an impressive and beautiful new front door.”
While a lot is happening now, this project has a history. Built as the first section of I-40 in North Carolina, the East-West Expressway as the road was called, opened in 1958. For North Carolinians, it was a novelty, as there was no other interstate here.
Winston-Salem was the second-largest city in the state, an economic hub with a vibrant downtown. Restaurants here were known far and wide; two of them were the K&W Cafeteria and La Chaudière French restaurant in Reynolda Shopping Center. To this day, people across the state remember that exit off I-40 and the 1988 explosion that left the cafeteria, and much of the shopping center, in rubble.
By 1989, the I-40 bypass had opened south of downtown. It relieved some traffic, but there are still some 80,000 vehicles on Business 40 each day.
Compared to today’s standards, the Business 40 lanes are too narrow and the ramps too short. The bridges which cross over it are too low and need to be replaced. The roadway is just worn out.
NCDOT officials knew that replacing the highway would require a lot of work. Other roads and bridges needed to be built and utility lines would have to be moved. Plans moved forward. Since the early 1990s, five of the Business 40 projects have been completed. The last remaining portion is the 1.2-mile stretch between Peters Creek Parkway and U.S. 52.
Officials credit the public, local governments, the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, the Winston-Salem Downtown Partnership, hospitals, universities, elected officials and the Federal Highway Administration for their support in moving the Business 40 project forward. They spoke, and NCDOT listened.
Between 2007-08, a survey was conducted to receive input from drivers, business owners and employees, church members and people who lived and worked near the construction area. More than 11,000 completed surveys indicated that nearly 70 percent of people preferred for the road to be fully closed and the work to be completed in two years.
“Their overwhelming response was to get in and get out. They chose the fastest way for us to do the project,” said NCDOT Division 9 Engineer Pat Ivey.
“We started more than a decade ago to prepare alternative routes that would allow drivers access to their destinations,” Ivey explained.
This is the first time that a major interstate highway has completely closed in North Carolina for a construction project.
To prepare for traffic flow when Business 40 is closed, U.S. 52 was widened to accommodate extra traffic as part of the Salem Creek Connector project. The revamping of Peters Creek Parkway came next, along with several smaller projects in downtown Winston-Salem — all in preparation for increased traffic flow. Additional turn lanes were installed in downtown and traffic lights were adjusted.
Business 40 was officially renamed Salem Parkway/U.S. 421 at the Oct. 21, 2016 construction groundbreaking. New road signs will be installed where I-40 and Business 40 split near Clemmons and the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market.
For detour and revised timeline information, visit Business40NC.com, facebook.com/business40nc/ or #Biz40NC. A special phone number, 336-747-7855, has been created for persons who would rather hear detour routes. If you have questions, you may call 336-747-7800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.