New LED system could cause problems with I-77 toll lane technology

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Channel 9 learned two systems could conflict with each other after millions in taxpayer dollars have been poured into new LED lighting along North Carolina interstates and toll lane construction on I-77.

Drivers on I-77 have not had lights in the construction zone for years. Now, engineers are rushing to make sure energy-efficient lights that are part of a $30 million project won't interfere with the toll lane system.

Driving in the dark in a construction zone can be dangerous, according to Zane Smith.

"It's definitely been a pain. Every time I drive, it's pretty hard to see which gets to be kind of difficult, especially merging," Smith said.

Just months before construction is set to wrap up on I-77, engineers learned new LED lights that will be installed along the interstate interfere with tolling technology because the frequencies for both systems are too close.

“That's kind of ridiculous,” Smith said. “You would think it might be more well thought-out."

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jen Thompson told Eyewitness News anchor Liz Foster the interference means neither the lighting system nor toll technology would work to its full capacity. That means it could be harder to troubleshoot lighting issues and drivers using express lanes could be billed incorrectly.

"The project team has already figured that we need to get another solution in place. They're working to identify that solution right now,” Thompson said. “The good thing is, that it's been caught now rather than when everything is completed."

In the meantime, thousands of LED lights are being installed on other Charlotte interstates. That work is expected to be finished in May.

But it will be dark for drivers on I-77 until toll lane construction is completed this fall.

"I think it should have already been done," Kay Bigelow said.

There is a chance there will not end up being toll lanes on I-77. Channel 9 has reported an advisory committee is helping decide the future of the construction project and most of its options include canceling the toll contract.

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