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Opinions divided on new U.S. 52 arches

Opinions divided on new U.S. 52 arches

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Twin Arches

The Twin Arches stand over the interchange of U.S. 52 and the new Research Parkway. The arches are the first installment of multiple efforts being put forward by a citizens’ group called the Creative Corridors Coalition.

The new Twin Arches over U.S. 52 are supposed to symbolize a city coming together, but they’ve sure polarized public opinion.

Comments both for and against the arch tumbled forth on the Journal’s Facebook page almost as soon as the city illuminated the arches, a major addition to its public art.

Awesome and beautiful, some people said.

A waste of money, said others. Some said they were disappointed in the effect the arches make, others pointed out that there was still a lot of light in the sky to keep the arches from looking their best.

Joycelyn Johnson, who helped inaugurate the lighting of the arches during a ceremony on Tuesday, said she knew some people would react negatively, but that she hopes people see the symbolism of arches reaching over a road that has become a by-name for the city’s racial divisions.

“Why not have something in our community, particularly in the southern part of our community, that can bring about some economic (impact),” Johnson said. “When you go to I-40 in Durham, you have the Tobacco Trail bridge. In St. Louis, you have the St. Louis arch that is the gateway to the west. Why can’t ours be a gateway?”

In her remarks as the arch was lighted for the first time, Johnson called attention to the presence of nearby neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights.

“It gives light to the southern border, an opportunity for a resurgence of energy to be put back into that community.”

One person leaving a Facebook comment called attention to the unfinished road work on U.S. 52 near the arch and said the city should turn off the lights “so we can see the sparks from car frames hitting the road you should’ve paved instead.”

But others said the arches reminded them of similar efforts elsewhere or pointed out that private money made the arches possible.

The arches are the first installment of multiple efforts being put forward by a citizens’ group called the Creative Corridors Coalition.

With state money ineligible for spending on improvements that are only aesthetic, the Creative Corridors Coalition has raised more than $5 million for extras designed to lift new Business 40 above the mundane.

The arches qualify as part of the Business 40 project because they stand over the interchange of U.S. 52 and Research Parkway — a new road that will be a major link to downtown during Business 40 construction, and a gateway to Winston-Salem’s goal of expanding technology businesses in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

Pat Ivey, the division engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation in Forsyth County, said that the last bit of paving can’t be done until warmer weather.

The arches cost $1.6 million to build, and the lights cost about $160,000. The state contributed $700,000 before the ban on non-essential spending was put in place, but did add $50,000 for landscaping as well. Creative Corridors contributed $900,000. Creative Corridors paid the cost for the lighting, but the city will have to pay the electricity bill.

City officials said the arches are lit by 12 205-watt LED fixtures that are expected to cost $1,500 to $1,700 per year to light.

Efforts to contact some of those who left critical remarks on Facebook about the arches fell short, but one woman who liked the arches did get in touch.

“I have driven under it several times, and I think it is majestic,” said Mary Lynn Wigodsky, who said she put her comments on Facebook in response to the negative ones. “I followed the Creative Corridors intiative with enthusiasm, and I love the idea that it is thematic with our arts and innovation distinction.”

wyoung@wsjournal.com 336-727-7369 @wyoungWSJ

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