Greensboro Urban Loop comes full circle as city sets Monday as opening day for final stretch

20 January 2023

GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Cooler weather could delay the final markings, but as of 11 a.m. on Monday, the final barricades will be moved at North Elm Street and U.S. 29 and the decades-in-the-paving Greensboro Urban Loop will be fully open.

This is Interstate 840 – incorporating Interstates 73, 40 and 85 with U.S. 421, U.S. 220 and U.S. 29 to make a complete …  well, 49-mile loop around the city – and the final, 3-mile segment is ready for motorists earlier than had been anticipated.

The full map of the Greensboro Urban Loop. (NC DOT)

“Monday at 11:00 is a certainty,” NC Department of Transportation Engineer Patty Eason confirmed in an email to WGHP. “The items remaining to be completed are temperature dependent such as the permanent, final pavement markings and markers, some cleanup, joint sealant, etc.”

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A formal opening is planned by NCDOT. North Carolina Transportation Secretary Eric Boyett and State Sens. Gladys Robinson (D-Greensboro) and Phil Berger (R-Eden) are scheduled to speak along with Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan, Guilford County Chair Skip Alston and N.C. Board of Transportation Chairman and Division 7 Representative Mike Fox.

They will dedicate the 3 miles that extend from North Elm Street to U.S. 29 and include an interchange at Yanceyville Street. This section is expected to accommodate about 19,000 vehicles per day.

This is ahead of a planned opening in the spring and completes a project that first was proposed in 1967 but not seriously undertaken until 1977. Construction of the final four segments began in 2013 at a cost of more than half-a-billion dollars.

Easier access in all directions

Construction of the eastern portion of the Urban Loop, I-840 going north of Burlington Road, as part of the $1 billion in road projects currently in various stages of construction around Greensboro, on Wednesday, February 11, 2015, in Greensboro, N.C. (JOSEPH RODRIGUEZ/News & Record)

This means that access to the Piedmont Triad International Airport and passage to Winston-Salem, High Point or even Charlotte will become easier for another large chunk of the population, and the commute from, say, the Lake Jeanette area to the Triangle around Raleigh or even Danville, Virginia, will be much shorter and devoid of stoplights.

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Eason had said earlier this month that the exact impact of the overall loop is difficult to measure because counts were taken in 2019 and 2021. The overall expectation in 2021 was about 96,000 vehicles per day for those 49 miles, she said.

“Each section of the loop has varied count due to the routes that allow traffic to enter and exit,” she said.

The final section of the loop is the eastern half of this segment between Lawndale Drive and U.S. 29. (NC DOT)

Long time coming

When each section of the loop opened. (NC DOT)

Although plans were developed in the last century, construction on the first of 13 segments didn’t even begin until 2002. The first five were completed by 2004, but then nothing else was opened for traffic until 2016.

Ultimately this project has included the expansion of I-73 north from I-40 into Rockingham County, where it merges with U.S. 220 on a planned thoroughfare through Virginia. There is a similarly conceived corridor for I-785 along U.S. 29 into Danville.

Additionally, an overpass for a taxiway big enough to accommodate a large commercial jetliner was built across I-73 near N.C. 68 to allow for PTI to develop property and lure industry on both sides of the route.

The long portion of the loop east from Battleground Avenue across Lawndale Drive and Elm Street and ultimately to U.S. 29 was not without its challenges that concerned and surprised residents.

Houses and apartments that for decades were purchased and leased amid trees and greenery suddenly were abutting concrete, near buzzing traffic and in sight of tall sound barriers.

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