Food Lion Speed Street, Charlotte's big annual racing-oriented block party, begins its 16th year Thursday.
But motorists will start seeing preparations -- in the form of street closings -- Wednesday morning in the uptown area.
Speed Street runs from Thursday through Saturday and is expected to bring up to 400,000 people to the center city area for live concerts, food, autograph sessions with NASCAR drivers and other celebrities, and interactive displays.
This year, the festival is changing its location slightly. The changes:
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-- The north edge of the festival will be at Tryon and Fifth streets. In recent years, the festival extended northward and included Sixth and Seventh streets. Not this year.
-- The area bordered by Church, Third and Mint streets and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will be part of the festival this year.
-- Also added to the festival is the area around the NASCAR Hall of Fame, at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Brevard Street.
Charlotte Department of Transportation officials say they will begin street closings at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. These streets will be closed until noon Sunday:
-- Tryon Street, between Fifth Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
-- Trade Street, between Church and College streets.
-- Poplar Street, between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Third Street.
-- Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, between Brevard and Caldwell streets.
Two important east-west cross streets -- Third and Fourth -- will remain open. That will change later in the week, when portions of Third and Fourth streets are closed, except for the morning commute on Thursday and Friday.
Officials with Charlotte Area Transit System are reminding those who work uptown or are visiting for Speed Street that they can use the light rail service or Express buses.
Two-car trains will run every 7 1/2 minutes from 6 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, the busiest times of Speed Street. In addition, light rail trains will run every 10 to 15 minutes Thursday evening, Saturday morning, and after 11 p.m. Saturday. Because of this extra service, some trains will not operate on their regular schedule.