Southbound traffic lane and interstate ramp closures on Interstate 77 in Charlotte added to frustrating driving conditions Wednesday night as fans left the Panthers’ preseason home opening win. Drivers reported delays and some congestion along the five-mile stretch of I-77 road work from Tyvola Road to the South Carolina state line.
Postgame traffic, and other drivers headed that direction, may have to contend with the nightly road project at least once more before N.C. Department of Transportation engineers expect repaving to finish at the end of the month. The Panthers play the Steelers at home Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m.
Delays may be caused by high traffic volume moving through the construction-zone, active every night starting at 8 p.m. Other Panthers home games in September are daytime.
Wednesday night’s conditions may have been made worse by added traffic and visitors in town for the PGA golf tournament at Quail Hollow Club and two other events in uptown Charlotte: the regularly scheduled Party in the Park music series at Romare Bearden Park and hip-hop artist J. Cole’s concert at the Spectrum Center.
Normally, DOT and its road work contractors plan for these special events, as well as holidays, and may adjust timing of ramp and lane closures to avoid causing delays. For example, Wednesday’s ramp closure at Tyvola Road didn’t happen until 10 p.m.
But lane closures southbound on I-77 continued as normal Wednesday night because the road work contractor Blythe Construction has already faced inclement weather this summer, which could derail project plans if the time isn’t made up, says Jen Thompson, a DOT spokesperson. Repaving is seasonal work that must be done before cold weather strikes. Road and highways also cannot be properly resurfaced when the surface is wet.
DOT realizes road work may cause delays, but officials say they had little choice Wednesday in Charlotte other than to take advantage of the clear weather.
“They’re trying to get caught up,” Thompson said.
Those headed to Quail Hollow in the early morning Saturday and Sunday could face delays again. DOT expects overnight road work to affect traffic until 8 a.m. both days. Charlotte DOT advises that Gleneagles Road, between Quail Hollow and Park roads, will be closed to all traffic from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., every day of the golf tournament, through Sunday.
N.C. DOT’s $11.4 million project on I-77 has been extended past its original Sept. 30 target completion date. Nearby, crews are also cleaning and adding a new coat of paint on four bridges on I-77, at Westinghouse Boulevard, Sugar Creek, Arrowood Road and the ramp bridge to the I-485 inner loop.
Rainy weather this summer has been a factor, plus an extra resurfacing project was added at I-85 northbound and I-77 to repave the highway ramp there, Thompson said. The extra ramp project means the project will now stretch to Oct. 20.
The Panthers play the Eagles at home Oct. 12 at 8:25 p.m., but engineers expect the resurfacing work on southbound I-77 to be complete by then, which should minimize delays.
Project leaders, Thompson said, also anticipated the Panthers game would have moderate attendance, given it is preseason.
DOT is doing its best to keep project timelines on track and to keep cars moving and drivers safe, Thompson said. Favorable weather conditions will help things go smoother moving forward, especially to give contractors more flexibility to suspend lane closures during special events that put more drivers on the road.
Travelers can check real-time road conditions and delays on highways and major roads across North Carolina by using DOT’s website. The site gives information about construction delays, accidents, weather-related traffic problems and road maintenance projects.