The Urban Loop is now officially open.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 23, Mayor Nancy Vaughan said that this week she planned to drive the entire loop.  The construction totaled 49 miles, but if you follow Vaughan’s lead and drive the entire loop it should be about a 39-mile trip.  The 49-mile construction project includes entrances, exits and collector roads.

There were a lot of smiling faces at the ribbon cutting.  The project did take 56 years from conception to completion, but in the end that completion came seven months early.

Just how much travel time the Urban Loop was going cut off trips was a dominant topic of folks standing around talking before the official ceremony began.  Along with the fact that this was a “lifetime” project.

Former City Councilmember and former state Sen. Don Vaughan said, “You interviewed me about this when I was first elected to the City Council in 1991.”

Mike Fox, chairman of the North Carolina Board of Transportation and an attorney in Greensboro, quoted the late Doug Galyon, who was also from Greensboro and chairman of the NC Board of Transportation from 2001 to 2010, as telling him, “Mike, you’ll spend a lot of time cutting ribbons and taking credit for the work done by people who went before you.”  Fox added that he wanted to give credit to all the people who had made the ribbon cutting possible that couldn’t be at the ceremony.

Mayor Vaughan said that when she moved to Greensboro in 1989, she remembered hearing a lot of talk about Painter Boulevard, which is what the Urban Loop was called back then, and she gave some history of the name and of Pennell Churchman Painter – Greensboro’s first city manager – who has evidently lost his road.

Although everyone agrees that the now open Urban Loop is going to significantly reduce travel times, one aspect of the new interstate highway that hasn’t received as much attention is safety.  Fox said that in the areas where the Urban Loop has been open, there has been a significant reduction in congestion on Greensboro city streets, and with that a reduction in traffic accidents.

Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston said, “The completion of I-840, the Urban Loop, opens up pathways that will be of tremendous benefit to our county.”

President Pro Tem of the state Senate Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) noted that the Urban Loop benefitted the entire triad region, which “is the hub for transportation in the state.”

Berger also noted that just the final section from North Elm to US 29 had cost $300 million to complete.