Traffic was whirring early Thursday evening on the part of the upgraded Wesleyan Boulevard from May Drive to just south of the interchange with U.S. 64.
That is because crews completed the final major construction work on the $28 million project by opening a new bridge over Stoney Creek and reopening the junction of Wesleyan, Tarrytown Center and Lawrence Circle.
Now motorists can use all three travel lanes of Wesleyan when heading north from May to the interchange with Benvenue Road and south from the interchange with Benvenue to May.
“Everything is kind of in the final traffic pattern,” state Transportation Department spokesman Andrew Barksdale told the Telegram.
Motorists can expect to see continuing work, he said, namely crews putting down a final layer of pavement on Wesleyan from May to the interchange with Benvenue.
Barksdale said crews late this month intend to start putting down that final layer of pavement and that crews will be doing the work late in the night to lessen the effect on traffic.
Barksdale said the plan is to have the paving completed by about early September and that crews will follow up by putting down high-visibility, permanent lane markings.
For about the next six weeks, motorists will see minor closures of lanes just south of the bridge over Stoney Creek, he said.
Barksdale said crews need to permanently shut down what had been a temporary junction of Wesleyan and Lawrence adjacent to the Goodyear tire store. That work will involve redoing the ditch and putting down sod.
Barksdale also said crews have to construct a travel lane near the interchange with Sunset Avenue but could not do so until the closure of the temporary junction of Wesleyan and Lawrence.
Barksdale said the Transportation Department is elated. He said of the overall work on Wesleyan, “It was a much-needed improvement.”
Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO David Farris told the Telegram he believes what has happened is “a milestone” and said he planned to make his first run on the decongested Wesleyan on Thursday evening.
“I’m going to take my toy, my Mustang convertible, and I’m going to lower the top,” he said. “And I’m going to savor every breath of air going down there. It’s so exciting.”
Mayor Sandy Roberson told the Telegram, “I’m super excited. I happened to be on a DOT phone call last week and got that news.
“I’m no different than anybody else, any other driver in Rocky Mount,” Roberson said. “And anytime that you can make the traffic move smoother and faster, quicker, with less interruption, the happier we all are.
“So I’m tickled to death. I think that it’s a great thing for our city,” Roberson said.
The project called for transforming the two-mile segment of Wesleyan from May to the interchange with Benvenue from four lanes to six lanes and into what is called a “superstreet” type of thoroughfare.
The idea is for motorists who will be prohibited from making a left turn at a certain intersection to drive to a U-turn with signals, hook a left and double back to the intersection and make a right.
Barksdale told the Telegram that although the Wesleyan improvement project was supposed to be completed by the start of this year, progress was delayed due to wet weather and the unexpected discovery of rocky subsoil in Stoney Creek.
“But it’s finally here,” Barksdale said of the substantial completion of the project.
Wesleyan is signed as U.S. 301.
Wesleyan was opened to traffic in October 1955, originally as a two-lane bypass of downtown but with an overpass and interchange for Sunset.
The present Wesleyan Boulevard project began in July 2017, with the contract awarded to PLT Construction of Wilson.
The project included replacing the Sunset overpass with a more modern structure.