As if sudden stops, late-night jam-ups and narrowed, rutted lanes aren’t enough, Interstate 77 drivers have been contending with another obstacle along the toll-lane work in north Mecklenburg: Blinding red clay dust clouds kicked up by heavy equipment and trucks.
Drivers complained to the Observer about encountering the visibility-limiting clouds as recently as last week.
An Observer reporter also drove through dust clouds at about 11:45 a.m. on two days along I-77 southbound in the Huntersville area last week. No dust-ups were seen at the same time on Monday along the 26-mile work zone from Mooresville to Charlotte, but they’ve been happening for awhile.
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In June, Diane Sheehan of Mooresville posted a picture on the I-77 Ridiculousness Facebook page of an approaching I-77 dust cloud.
Sheehan told the Observer she’s twice had near misses with trucks kicking up dust as they pull onto I-77’s regular lanes from the work area in the median. “I have never seen such a badly run work zone,” she said. “No fixed exits, with flashers to warn when trucks are exiting. They come out at slow speeds, they are going to kill someone. The dust means you can't see the hazard.”
The state Department of Transportation is aware of the clouds, DOT public relations officer Carly Olexik said Monday.
“Dust control is something we’re emphasizing frequently with the contractor and the inspection staff,” she said.
Nine water trucks release at least 100,000 gallons of water per day to control dust in the work zone, she said. After the state received added complaints about the dust last week, I-77 Mobility Partners and Sugar Creek Construction said they would add one or two more water trucks to the northern section of the project, according to Olexik.
She said the state responds each time a dust cloud or other concern is brought to DOT’s attention. Drivers encountering a dust cloud or who have other comments or concerns about the project are encouraged to fill out an online form at http://bit.ly/2oOE6DF, she said. Include the time, date and location of the dust cloud or other situation.