There's a light at the end of the tunnel for downtown Winston-Salem business owners now that the construction on Business 40, the highway that runs through the city, is more than halfway complete. The construction of the 1.2-mile stretch of roadway, which began in November 2018, has caused road closures, traffic rerouting and limited pedestrian access to parts of downtown. The upside will be a safer, less-curvy and more attractive thoroughfare adjacent to the Twin City's revitalized downtown.
The project got off to a rocky start due to two major storms last November, but it's set to finish in April 2020, four months earlier than planned. Of course, the weather is still a factor.
"We cannot predict what is going to happen with Mother Nature in the fall," says Greta Lint, communications director for the Business 40 project through N.C. Department of Transportation. "If we have dry weather, then yes, we are on target for an April 2020 opening, if not sooner."
The updates, which include new pedestrian bridges, walkways and a lower roadway to create more overhead space for busses and trucks to pass under bridges, are important for the 80,000 vehicles that travel the highway daily, according to NCDOT. "There is no other city in North Caro lina that has a major interstate running through it," Lint says.
Downtown feels the effects
Jason Thiel, president of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership for 13 years, acknowledges that there have been some negative effects.
"People don't want to put up with detours and the challenges they have faced [when coming downtown]," he says.
However, Thiel says it's caused residents and tourists to "support the businesses, in many cases."
Lint and the team at NCDOT have also taken extra steps to support business owners during the construction.
For example, NCDOT brought on a small business consultant in 2015, who checks in with businesses and provides support. The NCDOT Facebook page is used to answer people's questions regarding road closures or active construction zones.
Will Kingery, owner of Willow's Bistro, referred to the area surrounding his restaurant at South Liberty Street and Business 40 as the "corner of death and destruction" when it was closed during construction.
He took a hit in sales during the time of the...