Ralph C. Johnson Way DedicatedBy Yasmine Regester / September 1, 2017
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Northeast Greensboro residents now have an easier way to get around the city.
Ralph C. Johnson Way, a new bridge that connects East Cone Boulevard to Nealtown Road, was unveiled and opened to the public on August 30. City officials, dignitaries and community members celebrated the dedication of the bridge, along with Johnson’s family.
The brand new road is named after the late Rep. Ralph C. Johnson, a longtime community leader, state representative and a staunch supporter of the connector. As a leader of the Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro, Johnson pushed for a grocery store in Northeast Greensboro which materialized as the the Renaissance Community Co-op. As a memebr of the Citizens for Economic and Environmental Justice, he fought against the reopening of the White Street Landfill.
Originally from New York City, Johnson moved to Greensboro in the 1970s to attended college at N.C. A&T State University. Johnson was elected to the North Carolina House of Representatives (District 58) in 2014. He died in March 2016.
While in the House, Johnson worked to help the residents of his district by pushing for criminal justice reform, improving veterans’ affairs and supporting initiatives to eliminate food deserts.
“This is emotional right now to be able to see this. He wasn’t one to brag, so to see how important he was to the people here is indescribable,” said Johnson’s cousin, Margaret Ubah.
Although Johnson did not reside in northeast Greensboro, residents say the community held a special place in Johnson’s heart.
“His heart was in this community although he did not reside here. When he was elected to the State House of Representatives, he never forgot about East Greensboro. So as we travel this road, we will remember the works that he did in this community,” said Goldie Wells, District 2 representative on the Greensboro City Council and a longtime friend and colleague of Johnson.
Ralph C. Johnson Way, initially known as the Cone-Nealtown Connector, extends Nealtown Road from White Street to Cone Boulevard. Together with the extension of Cone Boulevard, this new stretch of road provides a much needed street connection in east Greensboro and more convenient access to revived commercial development at the end of East Cone Boulevard.
Residents now have easier access to shops and stores located on the old Carolina Circle Mall site, which includes a Wal-Mart Supercenter, a Lowe’s Home Improvement store, auto services and restaurants.
The new roadway will also act as an alternative entrance to the White Street Landfill with all traffic being directed to enter and exit via Cone Boulevard.
Totaling $15.5 million at completion, city leaders say that the project had been on the books for decades and it was left up to council to put funding in place. Wells noted that she and former District 1 Council member T. Dianne Bellamy-Small were adamant that construction of the Cone-Nealtown Connector be included in the city’s 2008 Transportation Bond.
Eight years prior, the Cone-Nealtown Connector feasibility study was included in the city’s 2000 Transportation Bond. Construction on the connector began summer 2015, but was stalled for several months when developers stumbled upon another landfill that had to be excavated before further construction could be done.
Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan applauded the community for their vision and drive to see the bridge come to fruition.
“This is the kind of morning you wake up and do the happy dance,” said Vaughan. “This project has taken over 25 years and I’m so pleased that we are finally here today to see the end. This is a wonderful neighborhood and I know you have been waiting for this connectivity for a long time. We talk a lot about connectivity in our city and this road is absolutely going to give you that.”
City officials say the next phase is to expand East Cone Boulevard to meet the Greensboro Urban Loop.