Greenway will run along side the unused train tracks near the research park.
The now unused tracks were once used for passengers and light freight.
By: April Walsh
Unused railway tracks run through the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter research park but city planners envision a greenway here alongside the track for cyclists, walkers and runners.
About three years ago, the city’s transportation department created the plan for the greenway. People will be able to use the path to commute to work or for exercise. Work on first leg of the trail, running from Martin Luther King Jr. Drive to Third Street, will start next year.
“Ultimately, the path will go all the way through Innovation Quarter and connect to Salem Creek Greenway, which links to the trail around Salem Lake,” said Matthew Burczyk, Transportation Project Planner.
This means when the trails meet that there will be over twenty miles of greenway in the downtown area. Burczyk said the path will be easy to access, especially for people working in the research park. People living downtown will also have easy access to this trail. A bike rack is already in place outside one of the buildings that will be near the greenway.
Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, also known as the research park, is a center for the advancement of biomedical technology science and technology. The plan is for the center to fully open in October of 2014. Wake Forest University and other private companies currently have space within the complex.
“This project got priority because it is a part of the redevelopment of downtown,”said Burczyk. “Innovation Quarter is creating a lot of new jobs and we want transportation here to be easy. We want people to have transportation options.”
Inmar Inc. is one of the companies moving into the research park. According to The Business Journal, Inmar will add over 200 jobs in their new location.
There were other areas considered for a greenway. This project will cost over five million dollars but will be paid for in part by federal funding. Burczyk said that this funding has many requirements that are challenging for planning.
Planning obstacles included working with a narrow space for the path since it will run next to the rail line. According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation Rail Division the track was once used for passenger and freight services. The rail line is very close to the Inmar building.
Even though the rail line is not currently in use or connected to any operating track, the transportation department must leave the rail line open in case the state wants to use it for travel in the future.
Residents of Winston-Salem said they are pleased with plans for the new path. Dean Franco, a recreational cyclist who lives in Winston Salem said, “I would definitely use the new path downtown.”
Franco cycles often downtown with his two sons, fourteen and twelve. He says he finds downtown already very bikeable. He lives close to Wake Forest University but he bikes with his children downtown.
“The layout of the streets, the timing of the lights, and the overhead lighting means that traffic moves slowly, making it perfectly safe for biking, day or night.”
Zach Lail, the store manager at Mock Orange Bikes, just west of downtown in West End, said: “I think the path is a great idea. This path should be as long as possible. Connecting the greenways will be great for cycling in Winston-Salem but there are still improvements we need to improve cycling downtown.”
On the list of Lail’s suggestions for improving downtown cycling include adding bike lanes and street signage for bikes. Mock Orange Bikes is a little over a mile from the research park.
Daniel Tyrrell, downtown resident said that added bike lanes would improve his cycling commute to Wake Forest.
“Cycling would be much better if some of the main city roads such as Robinhood Road, Reynolda Road, 4th street, Polo Road and Country Club Road had bike lanes.”
Tyrrell said he hopes these changes will be made but he appreciates the work of the transportation department for this new greenway. He plans to use the Innovation Quarter path for cycling and running.
Downtown transportation is in the process of redevelopment and the greenway path is a part of this revitalization. Burczyk said the path will get people to spend more time outside. People will have more opportunities to walk from place to place instead of driving everywhere.
“We want to encourage healthy living in Winston Salem. Employees at the research park or people living nearby can incorporate a fifteen minute walk or a twenty minute bike ride into their daily routine to improve the vitality of the city.”
Construction continues near the tracks for research park.
Bike racks on Vine Street within research park.