Use of shoulder lanes viewed as option for I-77 congestion relief

Updated: Apr. 18, 2019 at 5:48 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - As the I-77 Toll Lane Project nears completion, there is momentum on a plan to help alleviate some of the traffic for drivers during peak traffic times.

The plan would be to harden the shoulder lane along I-77 between Huntersville and Mooresville. Drivers would then be able to use that as an additional lane during rush hour traffic. It would not be one continuous lane, but an extension of the on and off ramps at 11 different locations along that stretch.

The plan, which was presented by North Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon, was approved by the local I-77 Advisory Committee and approved Wednesday by the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization.

“It would turn what is currently the emergency shoulder into an actual usable lane,” said Jim Puckett, who sits on the Local Advisory Committee. “We are having to make adjustments to a poorly-designed project, which means it is all in flux.”

Many drivers say anything that can help reduce traffic congestion is welcomed.

“I think it is a good idea that will help with congestion,” said Helen Williams who lives in Davidson. “I-77 is pretty bad. It is awful. Especially now with all the lane changes, it just gets crazy to drive.”

Other drivers believe it will help during high peak times.

“That would be great. They could leave it open all the time,” said driver Dine Permenter.

The shoulders will not be open all the time, only during peak times.

“As a result of requests from the local advisory group, NCDOT is currently evaluating peak period shoulder lanes for feasibility on the corridor. The Department is working with local planning organizations, stakeholders and communities as the evaluation continues. We are also coordinating with first responders, and they are aware that the express lane delineators are flexible and can be driven over in an emergency," said Jen Thompson with NCDOT.

There are concerns from drivers about what may happen if emergency officials can’t use the emergency lane. However, advocates say emergency crews haven’t really been able to do that since the project started.

“It will be there as long as we have the current configuration anyways,” said Puckett. “However if they turn the entire project over to the DOT and the Turnpike Authority then those lanes may not be as needed.”

Where the funding is coming from for the hardening of those lanes is still a question that needs to be answered.

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