Workers are smoothing the concrete walls of a tunnel under Peters Creek Parkway, as one of the literally less-visible parts of the Business 40 renovation proceeds.
The tunnel, made of reinforced concrete and steel, stretches 255 feet from end to end and passes underneath Peters Creek Parkway north of the new bridge over Business 40.
Right now, it has mud on the concrete floor, piles of construction materials inside, and no lights. But when finished, the tunnel is likely to be one of the highlights of a pedestrian and biking path that will eventually stretch from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to Liberty Street and the Strollway downtown.
It's being called the multiuse path, or MUP, and it will run alongside the new Business 40, crossing the downtown freeway several times along the way.
Nobody's likely to be doing any biking through the tunnel until the Business 40 renovation is substantially complete, but the construction timetable means it is one of the first parts of the pathway to be finishing.
James Meachum, the state's chief inspector for the Business 40 renovation, said the tunnel was built in phases like the bridge that passes over it.
Workers never had to do any actual tunneling into the earth to make the tunnel: The western end of the structure was built above ground, then covered with rock and dirt for the passage of the widened roadway above it.
"We had to do the first half on this side," Meachum said as he stood near the western end of the tunnel. He explained that once the western side of the bridge was finished and traffic shifted over to the new bridge, work could then go forward on the eastern end of the tunnel.
The same process took place on the east side as on the west: The section of the tunnel was built above ground, then covered.
The Peters Creek Parkway bridge is now fully in use, and the tunnel beneath awaits future work on the multi- use path. The tunnel is 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide. The ceiling is equipped for the installation of lighting, which will come later in the project.
The tunnel slopes gently from east to west so that any water that gets inside will drain to the west end and go into the drainage system.
Beneath the tunnel is an 8-inch stone base that will also help with drainage.
The section of the multiuse path beside the Business 40 renovation is being done as part of that renovation. City and state money are both paying for that part of the project.
Meanwhile, the second phase of the pathway — extending from Fourth Street to the outskirts of Wake Forest Baptist — is ready to start going forward with the passage last November of a bond issue put before city voters by the Winston-Salem City Council.
"That section will provide the final connectivity to the Baptist area and Ardmore," said Matthew Burczyk, a transportation project planner in the city's Transportation Department. Burczyk is the city's point man for all things bike.
For people in the vicinity of Wake Forest Baptist, Burczyk said, options for bike transportation are limited by the heavy traffic and steep hills leading to downtown on the existing road network.
"This trail will be separated from traffic," he said. "There will still be a hill, but it will not be as severe."
By using the tunnel to go under Peters Creek Parkway instead of across it, walkers and bikers won't have to fight the six lanes of traffic on the parkway. Ramps will connect the western end of the tunnel to the sidewalk over the bridge to the south side of Business 40, where the pathway will continue toward Wake Forest Baptist.
Because voters only recently approved the money for the western end of the path, it is on a different schedule from the rest. That part of the project must be designed and put out to bid.
At this point, Burczyk said, the intent is to use existing right-of-way for the western extension. This part of the project has a $2.3 million budget.
When all the work is done, people using the multiuse path will be able to connect to other paths leading to Salem Lake and Quarry Park.
"It's going to be a great connection," Burczyk said.