A second segment of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway opens on Wednesday, giving drivers on the northeastern side of Winston-Salem a straight shot between New Walkertown Road and Salem Parkway.
State highway officials said the new segment, which runs for about two miles between Reidsville Road and New Walkertown Road, will open Wednesday evening. The speed limit is 65 mph.
"It is obviously a small section, but it is a critical section when you are talking about trying to reduce some of the through traffic on N.C. 66 in Walkertown and in Kernersville," said Pat Ivey, the division engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation in Forsyth County.
The two-mile stretch was built by E.S. Wagner Co. at a cost of about $33 million.
A much longer segment of the beltway, running about seven miles from New Walkertown Road to a new interchange at U.S. 52 on the north side of town, will probably not open until the summer of 2022, Ivey said. That segment is being built by Flatiron Constructors Inc. and Blythe Development Co., which are companies that worked together on the Business 40/Salem Parkway project.
VIDEO: Here's a look at the first stretch of the Northern Beltway to open in Winston-Salem.
The segment of the Northern Beltway running between Salem Parkway and Interstate 74 on the southeast side of Winston-Salem will begin in stages in December 2022, with completion probably taking place in 2026.
Currently, Ivey said, transportation officials are still buying rights-of-way and moving utilities in advance of the work.
Highway officials said the segment opening Wednesday is coming online six months ahead of schedule.
"A couple weeks ago, we were worried that with all the weather and everything, it might be delayed," Ivey said on Tuesday. "We did not get firm confirmation until late yesterday that they were going to be able to make it."
When completed, the eastern leg of the beltway will be designated part of I-74. Eventually, U.S. 52 between Mount Airy and Winston-Salem will be upgraded and designated I-74 as well, connecting to an existing stretch of I-74 between Mount Airy and I-77.
To the east and south, I-74 goes almost as far south as Rockingham. Eventually, it will connect to other stretches of I-74 leading to the outskirts of Wilmington.