by: Jim Bradley Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - State budget cuts are scaling back services for the Incident Management Assistance Patrols road assistance program.
North Carolina Department of Transportation officials said IMAP will have fewer crews and cover fewer miles of highway because of a 25 percent cut to their entire operations and management budget.
Instead of offering help to stranded motorists 24/7, IMAP will cut overnight and weekend hours.
It will still cover Interstate 77 and Interstate 85 but will stop patrols entirely along Interstate 485 and Interstate 277.
NCDOT officials said they're making the cuts reluctantly because they know IMAP patrols are both popular and important.
"They don't just help push a car out of the way or fix a flat tire or give a drop of gas," said NCDOT spokeswoman Jen Thompson, "When we have a serious incident, they help to block lanes so emergency crews can do their work."
Along I-85 Tuesday afternoon, Eyewitness News watched an IMAP driver help change a flat tire for a woman who was stranded on the shoulder.
"It's a big help. It's a blessing," said the driver.
Last year, IMAP drivers responded to more than 21,000 incidents.
News of cuts to that service is not popular with drivers like Demarcy Reynolds who said, "Once you're on the side of the road, most people are not going to stop. So I mean, you really do need some help out here."