Access in East Winston onto and off of Highway 52 became even more restricted this week.
The state Department of Transportation permanently closed the Fifth Street entrance ramp to the highway on Monday. This comes a few months after NCDOT deleted entrance and exit ramps at Third and Fourth streets, closing one of the main gateways into the heart of East Winston and downtown.
There is a method behind this madness, seemingly. NCDOT says the most recent closure will “streamline traffic flow on the highway, which will help improve motorist safety and reduce congestion.”
The earlier closures, near United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, were done to construct an additional lane on 52 that will stretch between U.S. 421/Business 40 to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The new lane, along with the closing of the ramps, will reduce traffic congestion, delays and accidents, according to NCDOT.
Highway 52 can be a driver’s worst nightmare, no one can argue that fact, but NCDOT has to forgive those of us who are a bit wary about limiting access near communities of color. There is a long, documented history here and across the nation of racist transportation plans implemented under the guise of progress. Detours, blocked exit and entrance ramps, even train tracks have been used to both keep black folks in their communities and others from accessing them.
We will give NCDOT and its multi-million dollar U.S. 52 Improvement Project the benefit of the doubt for now, but the agency has to show and prove. The changes at Third and Fourth streets were implemented months ago, but it seems the gridlock on 52 is worse than ever. If the planned additional lane doesn’t change that, we need to ask for whom exactly the highway was improved.