Downtown Two-Way Street Conversion

Project Overview

The city will be converting several one-way downtown streets to two-way traffic. They are:

  • First Street, between Peters Creek Parkway and Spruce Street.
  • Portions of Second Street, including the connector between Peters Creek Parkway and Broad Street.
  • Main Street, between Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Brookstown Avenue.
  • Liberty Street, between Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Brookstown Avenue.

Current traffic patterns will remain in place during construction. Lane closures may be required at times to place new traffic signals and build corner extensions.

Latest News

Curb work (corner extensions, etc.) is underway on the section of First Street between Liberty Street and the Strollway crossing just east of Cherry Street. Lane closures will be in effect along this stretch.

The Chamber of Commerce/Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership Business 40 Task Force recommended the two-way conversion to slow traffic speeds, promote pedestrian use, improve connectivity of the downtown street network and enhance the overall downtown business environment. 

A study by an independent traffic engineering firm concluded that these changes were feasible after looking at both:

  1. The effect that the new exit and entrance ramp configurations for the Salem Parkway (formerly Business 40) will have on downtown traffic; and
  2. The anticipated volume of traffic in 2040.

First Street will remain predominately a westbound route, and Second Street will remain predominantly an eastbound route. Likewise Liberty Street will remain primarily a southbound route, and Main a northbound route, which is consistent with their current usage. However, two-way traffic will improve circulation patterns and make it easier for downtown visitors to get to their destinations.

Scope of Work

The project includes:

  • Corner curb extensions (“bulb-outs”) at select intersections to shorten pedestrian crossing distances, improve pedestrian visibility to vehicles and provide protected on-street parking zones.
  • New lane markings & traffic lights.
  • Resurfacing the streets.
  • Modifications of on-street parking in select locations.
  • Realignment of Old Salem Road at Brookstown Avenue.

Overview map of two-way conversions of First & Second streetsOverview map of First & Second Street conversions (PDF)

Timetable

Work on the conversion of First and Second streets will begin in November. Work is expected to be completed by January 2022. The following timetable and sequence of work is an estimate. It may be modified due to weather or unexpected delays once construction begins.

Fall/Winter 2020: 

  • The project will begin with curb work on First Street between Liberty Street and the Strollway crossing just east of Cherry Street. Work on the First Street curb improvements will continue in sections moving progressively west to Peters Creek Parkway. In all, the curb work on First Street is expected to take six weeks to two months to complete.
  • When the curb work on First Street is completed, curb work will begin on Second Street. This includes all the curb work mentioned above except for a median island on Second Street that will be installed once two way traffic is ready to go into effect. This phase will go until the winter break in early January at the latest). 
  • During this time some signal work will be done on locations that do not have mast arm poles, such as Peters Creek and First /Second Streets.

Spring and Summer 2021: 

  • Duke Energy will install new mast arm poles on First Street at locations that call for them. Once the First Street locations are completed, Duke will shift to installing new mast arm poles where needed on Second Street.
  • Once Duke finishes mast arm locations on First Street, a contractor will begin installing new traffic signals.
  • Once signal work is done, First Street will be milled and repaved.
  • Pavement markings and signs on First Street will be installed and verified.
  • Traffic on First Street will be converted to the new two-way configuration. 

Late Summer 2021 and beyond:

  • Once Duke finishes all mast arm locations on Second Street, a contractor will begin installing new traffic signals on Second Street.
  • Once First Street is open to two-way traffic and signal work is done on Second Street, Second Street will be milled and repaved, and a new median island will be constructed. 
  • Pavement markings and signs on Second Street will be installed and verified.
  • Traffic on Second Street will be converted to the new two-way configuration. 

Work on Liberty and Main streets will begin once First and Second streets are completed. 

Overview map of two-way conversions of Main and Liberty streetsOverview map of Main & Liberty Street conversions (PDF)

FAQs

Why are these streets being converted to two-way traffic?

The use of one-way streets was established in the late 1940s, before Business 40 (now Salem Parkway) was built and vehicles had to go through downtown to get from one side of Winston-Salem to the other. 

That is no longer the case. And the growth of downtown as a destination for visitors and as a place to live has created greater interest in making downtown more accommodating for pedestrians and bicyclists.

A study of downtown streets completed in 2015 recommended converting First, Second, Liberty and Main streets to two-way traffic to slow traffic, make downtown more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, improve traffic circulation in downtown and enhance the overall downtown business environment. 

Slowing traffic and allowing two-way traffic will allow motorists to see potential attractions or businesses that they might want to patronize. Lower speeds also promote walkability, which is a favorable condition for downtown business.

Two-way streets will also improve traffic circulation. Visitors will be able to get to their destination more directly, resulting in them getting off the road sooner than if they had to circle a block because of the one-way traffic.

Why are portions of First Street and Second streets still one-way?

Efforts were made to identify solutions for two-way travel along the entire length of First and Second Streets. However, the short spacing between Cherry and Marshall Streets (and some other adjacent streets) would result in back-ups that could tie up intersections because the short blocks do not allow enough room for “queue stacking,” that is, the cars stopped between the streets while waiting for the light to turn green. 

Keeping these blocks one-way allows both lanes to be used by vehicles, just as they currently are.

Don’t the one-way sections on First and Second streets defeat the purpose of the two-way conversion?

No. The two-way conversion primarily is intended to calm traffic and improved traffic circulation downtown. First Street will remain predominately a westbound route, and Second Street will remain predominantly an eastbound route. However, the two-way conversion will give downtown commuters new options for getting into and out of downtown, which will absorb some of the traffic that currently uses those streets. 

For example, the new traffic pattern will allow southbound drivers on Broad Street to turn right at Second Street to get to Peters Creek Parkway. Currently, they must go to First Street.

Why is the block of Second Street between Broad and Spring remaining one-way?

This block remains one-way because there is not enough right-of way for both two-way traffic on that block AND allow two left-turn lanes from the Second Street connector on to northbound Broad Street. Two left turn lanes are necessary because of the volume of traffic that turns at this intersection.

How do two-way streets calm traffic?

One-way pairs of multi-lane streets can inadvertently create a “race track” feel, due to wide pavement, straight paths, and well-timed two-phase traffic signals. One-way streets also can hinder the visibility of businesses and access to businesses. 

In contrast, two-way streets tend to reduce vehicle speeds. Two-way roadways also improve access and connectivity, shorten trip lengths, and reduce driver confusion. 

What happens to traffic patterns during the transition?

The current traffic patterns will remain in effect during construction. Lane closures may be required from time to time for construction. Once all the elements are in place the roads will be switched to two-way traffic. Typically the switch takes place over a weekend, when traffic volumes are lower. 

When will this happen?

To minimize the disruption downtown, only one pair of streets will be converted at a time. First and Second streets will be converted first, because they are the most in need of repaving (which is part of the project). Work on them will start in November 2020 and go until January 2022. 

Once First and Second streets are completed, work will begin on Liberty and Main streets.

How long will it take?

Transportation officials estimate that by doing only two streets at a time, it will take about two years to convert all four streets.

How much will it cost?

As part of the November 2018 bond referendum, voters approved $6.4 million in bonds to pay for converting the streets. This includes the cost of new traffic signals and mounting poles, building curb-extensions, milling and repaving, painting new lane markings and realigning Old Salem Road.