Noise walls or not, Business 40 work disrupts West End life
By WESLEY YOUNG
Apr. 15, 2018
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Noise walls will eventually rise to shield much of the West End and adjacent neighborhoods from Business 40 road noise, but in the meantime many people in that area are on the road construction front lines.
It's more than some can take: A couple who live in an upstairs apartment that overlooks Business 40 say they're moving out this week.
"This house was all concealed in the woods, and all this was trees," Sam Gay said as she stood on her upstairs Fourth Street porch and looked out over what used to be the Fourth Street bridge. "We didn't get any notification from the city or our landlord and (workers) are out there day and night, constantly."
Gay and her husband, Jesse Terrell, said they have lived there about a year.
"They hadn't started anything," she said. "I knew they were going to do construction on Business 40. I didn't know they were going to put this power pole in our yard."
The house the couple live in was once screened from Business 40 by tall trees, but the couple doubt any noise wall can reach high enough to bring back the sense of privacy they once enjoyed. Noise-wall heights vary, but they're likely to max out at no more than 16 to 18 feet high.
The Business 40 project is a multiyear project to modernize Winston-Salem's downtown freeway by eliminating some interchanges and putting in longer ramps for the ones that remain. The first step in the project involves replacing (and widening) the Peters Creek Parkway bridge and interchange. That's supposed to be completed sometime this fall.
After that, a milelong section of Business 40 between Peters Creek Parkway and U.S. 52 will be closed for up to 20 months in some sections, with the entire project scheduled to be finished in summer 2020. For months, city and state highway officials have been warning residents to look for alternate routes.
At first glance, it could seem that the West End would be minimally affected by the Business 40 work: The Peters Creek Parkway interchange replacement is on the eastern end of the neighborhood, and the 20-month Business 40 closure coming later this year proceeds east from Peters Creek Parkway.
But West End residents are not only affected by the current bridge work, they also live on the streets that other people will be using as alternative routes into town during the closure.
"My biggest concern is going to be First Street," said Pranab Das, who lives in the part of the West End between First Street and Business 40. "It is going to be a mess. It is going to be very hard to get across it."
After Business 40 is closed this fall, the Peters Creek Parkway interchange will be the last place on eastbound Business 40 that people can get off, and officials expect a lot of traffic to come into town on Peters Creek Parkway.
Some of those drivers will simply go north on Peters Creek Parkway, but the state is also widening the Academy Street intersection on Peters Creek south of Business 40, since Academy is also expected to get heavy use.
Of course, drivers are also likely to get off at Cloverdale Avenue and find their way into downtown from there, using First Street in part but also exploring all the other streets in the residential neighborhood in search of that perfect back road.
Westdale Avenue, not exactly in the West End but pretty close, is directly on the front line of the widening of Peters Creek Parkway leading south to Business 40 and the new interchange under construction.
The state took out eight houses on the north side of Westdale but is leaving the ones across the street in place. So when Nathaniel Allen walks outside the front door of his rental duplex, he has full-on experience of red dirt, earth moving equipment going back and forth, dust and beeps.
Oh, and there's the blasting.
"It gets noisy at times when they are drilling or blasting or something like that," Allen said. "It looks like they have a long way to go to get done."
Before the houses across the road were removed, along with the trees in the yards, it was barely possible to know that Peters Creek Parkway was so close, Allen said. And on the side toward Business 40 itself, trees and kudzu blocked the way.
Allen has a small deck on the end of his place facing Business 40, but he said there's too much dust since the work began to think about using his grill. Contractors did come by to take pictures inside his house, he said, so that when blasting took place they could later determine whether any damage resulted.
The houses on the north side of Westdale had to be removed because Peters Creek Parkway is being widened on that side as it approaches the new bridge under construction.
Allen said he does look forward to when a noise wall is up and things quiet down.
Residents said they hear the noise of construction first thing in the morning.
"It wakes you up every morning about 7:30," said Gina Gambrell, who also lives on Westdale Avenue. "And this past weekend they were working on Saturday. I do miss my neighbors. We all knew each other because most of them had been living here a long time. It was sad to see them go."
Blasting makes a loud boom when it happens, she said. She has told by contractors when it is coming up, and recently she decided to watch from her front door.
"It looked like a wave or a billow" coming up from the ground, she said. "It went right up and boom."
But Daniel Payne, who lives in the last rental house on the north side of Westdale, said he actually enjoys the expansive view that the road work has created.
"Before, it was a bunch of trees and a whole strip of houses," he said. "I do enjoy the open sky. It is great. I get to see the sky and the city."
One aspect of construction that many people like is that the removal of the Fourth Street bridge has taken a lot of traffic out of the neighborhood that used to speed back and forth to Peters Creek Parkway near Academy Street, people said.
Jo Ann Mount, the president of the West End Neighborhood Association, said that for her and others who live on Fourth near the former bridge, the quiet is nice.
"Here on Fourth Street we talk about how much happier we are with the bridge out," Mount said, adding that before the work started, people would come speeding through the residential area at 45 miles an hour.
Mount said that given the extra traffic that the West End will get from the Business 40 closure, people are hoping the city will put in some traffic-calming measures.
Mark Lively, the immediate past president of the West End group, said that when the Business 40 project was being planned, some people in West End pushed for the bridge to be closed. But in the end, advocates for keeping the connection won the day.
Assistant City Manager Greg Turner said there's a process people in a neighborhood can follow if they want to try to get measures approved to slow down traffic.
"They would submit a request and go through the process ... to see what they can live with," Turner said. "The staff would give them a list of options and the council would have to give final approval."
Meanwhile, on the south side of Business 40, off the portion of Fourth Street cut off from the rest of West End, people are also dealing with dust and noise.
But Westley Miller, who lives in an apartment facing Business 40 over Apple Street, said it isn't too bad, still.
"I wake up and there's a bunch of noise, but I'm used to it," he said. "I leave the radio on all night, so it is not too bad."
Das, who has lived in the West End for 25 years, said that once the work is done and the noise walls are in place, life in the neighborhood should be better.
"The thing we are concerned about is when they drive those piles for the noise wall, if it will shake, rattle and roll," he said. "But that's a small price to pay."
Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com