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Work starts next year on Beltway interchange with U.S. 52
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Work starts next year on Beltway interchange with U.S. 52

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A new interchange linking U.S. 52 to the future Winston-Salem Northern Beltway on the north side of Winston-Salem will start construction next year and finish by the fall of 2022, highway officials said.

The recent awarding of the $134 million contract for the work is a major step in completing the part of the beltway on the east side of Winston-Salem. The contract for the interchange work was awarded to Blythe Construction Inc.

“That is the last major contract,” said Pat Ivey, the division engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation in Forsyth County, referring to work on the beltway from U.S. 52 to Business 40.

Of course, contracts remain to be awarded to build other sections of the beltway to the south of Business 40 and on the western side of Winston-Salem.

The first segment of the new freeway, currently under construction, will link Business 40 and Reidsville Road (U.S. 158). That part of the beltway went under contract in late 2014, and construction is expected to finish in late 2019.

The next segment, where construction is not as far along, extends from Reidsville Road to New Walkertown Road (U.S. 311). That contract was awarded in November 2017, with completion of the segment planned for as early as December 2020.

After that, the summer of 2021 should see the completion of the beltway from New Walkertown Road to University Parkway. That contract was awarded in March this year.

The latest contract awarded fills in the remaining gap from University Parkway to U.S. 52, and includes the big interchange where the two freeways will intersect.

Motorists passing through the area on U.S. 52 can already see the work going on to replace the bridge that carries Bethania-Rural Hall Road (N.C. 65) over U.S. 52. That interchange is so close to the new one that, when finished, some of the ramps will flow between the two interchanges in order to allow the full range of traffic movements.

Ivey said both interchanges are being constructed under the design-build method of awarding contracts, a procedure intended to speed up highway construction. In a design-build project, one company gets the contract to both design and build the highway.

As a result, Ivey said, the final design for the interchange may vary somewhat from the draft once the designs are finalized. Ivey said the final designs will be presented at a future public meeting.

Ivey said it could take another nine to 12 months for the contractor to finish designs, handle any relocation of utilities and acquire any needed right of way for the project.

“I would say that construction would begin in the last half of 2019,” Ivey said.

As with many construction projects on major highways, traffic will keep flowing on U.S. 52 while work is underway. Ivey said that once the work starts in earnest, drivers should expect the typical lane shifts and other construction measures seen on similar projects.

The only part of the eastern side of the beltway not yet under contract will extend from Business 40 to U.S. 311/Interstate 74 on the southeastern side of Winston-Salem.

The timetable calls for those contracts to be awarded in 2020, with construction finished in 2023.

The eastern leg of the beltway will be designated I-74, connecting on the south end with the existing I-74, and on the north end to U.S. 52, a four-lane freeway that will be upgraded to interstate highway standards in the future.

Near Mount Airy, U.S. 52 connects with another existing stretch of I-74, one that links I-74 to I-77.

Ivey said that state highway planners are studying what U.S. 52 needs north of Winston-Salem to reach interstate standards, but added it is a long-term project.

Although that part of U.S. 52 is a controlled-access freeway, it lacks shoulders built to interstate standards, and has some bridges that need more clearance. The highway is hillier than a newly-constructed interstate would be, so some leveling work might be needed, Ivey said.

The eastern leg of the beltway will be a six-lane freeway, while the western leg will be four lanes.

The western leg will connect U.S. 52 on the north to U.S. 158 between Clemmons and Winston-Salem.

Current timetables call for work to start on the first section of the western leg in 2025. That first segment would connect U.S. 421 and Robinhood Road on the west side of Winston-Salem.

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

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