MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. - North Carolina Sen. Jeff Tarte called the I-77 toll lane construction a “catastrophic mess” that is putting drivers at risk.
Tarte is calling out North Carolina’s Department of Transportation over the project’s management.
He said he received an email from a woman who claimed that, despite an announcement that one of the lanes near Exit 35 in Mooresville would close at 10 p.m., the lane had already closed at 8 p.m.. The woman also noted a lack of signage and said that construction crews pulled out in front of her.
Tarte said the response from NCDOT officials showed no regard for drivers’ safety.
NCDOT officials responded by saying the contractor is responsible for announcing when lanes close.
Tarte emailed Gov. Roy Cooper and Transportation Secretary James Trogdon and said the department needs to take responsibility.
“I personally hold NCDOT accountable and responsible for any further accidents that could be prevented by proper management of this construction zone,” Tarte said in the email.
Here is Tarte’s full email to Cooper and Trogdon: “I need your help to rectify the catastrophic mess occurring in the construction zone of I-77.
“I am massively disappointed in NCDOT. I am extremely unhappy. Surely you cannot agree with or condone the response below from staff?
“Attached is a completely unacceptable response to my earlier request to look into a matter brought to our attention by a local resident. The attached message is nothing more than a classic bureaucrat response of passing the buck and blaming someone else for a highway and construction zone that ultimately the state of North Carolina is responsible for ensuring the safety of everyone traveling on our highways.
“This is exactly why most citizens around this part of the state do not trust NCDOT to do the right thing. “This is an abdication of responsibility and accountability. This entire situation is totally unacceptable. It sends a message that NCDOT has no regard for the safety of our motorists - none! I am ashamed and embarrassed by this message.
“In addition, we now have a reckless disregard of motorists by construction trucks entering onto the general purpose lanes, in front of vehicles traveling at full posted speed limits, at dangerously slow speeds from the construction zone. This needs immediate attention before someone is killed!
“I personally hold NCDOT accountable and responsible for any further accidents that could be prevented by proper management of this construction zone.
“Please investigate and review all the problems motorists are encountering in this construction zone. I look forward to hearing how we plan to address and fix this situation.”
In December, Tarte said he wanted local towns to rally against the I-77 toll lane project.
In a letter to Lake Norman Municipalities, Tarte asked local governments to pass resolutions against the toll lane contract.
Tarte said continued pressure needs to be applied in order for the controversial project to be canceled. Leaders are worrying more about the costs of the tolls after costs sky-rocketed on toll lanes in Washington, D.C.
Prices surged to $36, and peaked at $40, on I-66 in Washington, D.C.
Cooper said the transportation department is working to figure out how to protect people as the toll lane project moves forward.
“We want them to be smart about this,” Cooper said. “We gotta understand it's going to cost money whatever solution that we do.”
Cooper said the transportation secretary has been meeting with community groups and hopes to make a decision soon about the next steps to take.
Last month, Channel 9 reported that the state is creating an advisory group, made up of representatives from local towns and counties, to talk about possible alternatives.
Meanwhile, a group that is fighting the toll lanes said it has run out of legal options to stop the project.
The group Widen I-77 now wants the project to be finished and but the toll lanes to be deleted.
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