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Race to finish toll lanes is on; shoulder work begins in 2020

By Dave Vieser.  As motorists who ride I-77 already know, there’s plenty of work left to be done on the toll lane project, most especially on the segment between Exit 23  in Huntersville and I-277. Even the open segment between Exits 23 and 36 still requires quite a bit of final paving.

Cintra, aka I-77 Mobility Partners, will face penalties if the job isn’t completed on or before Oct. 31, according to NCDOT spokeswoman Jennifer Thompson.

“Liquidated damages of $10,000 per day will be assessed for each section that is completed after that date” said Thompson. The original completion date was Jan, 7, 2019, but that date was extended because work was added to the contract. “The direct connectors at Lakeview Road and Hambright Road were added at the request of the local planning organization, and pavement rehabilitation to the general purpose lanes was also added so traffic will not be impacted with more road work in a few years.”

I-77 Mobility Partners are mum about their projected completion date. “We continue to work with our construction partners and the NCDOT to deliver the full I-77 Express project for motorists as soon as possible,” said spokeswoman Jean Leier.

However, some estimates from construction officials say late fall is the most likely time when final paving will be done.

Motorists using the stretch between Exit 23 and Exit 36 have been unhappy about the drop off in pavement between lanes which have been repaved, and those which have not.

NC Sen. Natasha Marcus met with DOT officials recently about the pavement drop off, along with some other concerns. “They were not satisfying answers,” she said, noting that she made the NCDOT “very much aware” of the concerns voiced by motorists.

According to the DOT, the drop off is no more than the allowed two inches. They supposedly check frequently to make sure it’s not more than two inches. In the few cases where a pothole or degradation in the old pavement has been near the drop off, causing the combined difference in height to be more than two inches, they have made sure the pothole was repaired right away.

Concerns had also been expressed over the lane markings. “The DOT says that the lane markings are temporary while the repaving progresses, so they are not as visible or clear as normal markings” said Marcus.  “They cannot do the full “long life” markings including plastic-like coating over the white paint and reflectors along the dotted lines, until the repaving is complete.”

If drivers incur damage to their vehicles in the toll lane construction zone, the contractor may be responsible for reimbursement. To request reimbursement for damages drivers need to file a tort claim at www.ncdot.gov/contact.

Meanwhile, the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRPTO) has approved funding which will enable the I-77 shoulders to be used as travel lanes during rush hours.

As many as six segments between N.C. 150 and I-485 could be opened on rush hours under an agreement approved at CRPTO’s July 17 meeting in Charlotte. Construction to prepare the shoulders for through traffic is expected to begin by next summer.

The use of shoulder lanes for traffic has been successfully implemented in a number of areas throughout the country.

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