Tunnel blasting scheduled for I-77 toll lanes in Charlotte

Expect traffic on Interstate 77 to slow briefly near uptown Charlotte this weekend as crews blast the first part of a new tunnel for toll lanes.

The tunnel is being constructed on I-77 northbound, just north of the I-85/I-77 interchange.

Ramps leading to that part of I-77 will be temporarily closed. Motorists can expect a brief slowing of traffic between 6 and 9 a.m. Saturday and/or Sunday, according to I-77 Mobility Partners LLC.

Drivers can consider alternate routes, including I-85 northbound and southbound. Police will help with traffic.

Temporary traffic lanes will be built at the location to shift traffic to the east (outside) of the existing lanes. Drivers will notice new traffic patterns in the next several weeks, as crews set temporary safety barriers and place new pavement markings.

Once traffic is in the new pattern, the second phase of the tunnel construction will begin. The new traffic pattern is scheduled to be in place for about nine months.

The toll lanes will run beside the existing general purpose lanes. The number of general purpose lanes will remain the same as today.

The full 26-mile project from the Brookshire Freeway in Charlotte to Exit 36 in Mooresville is scheduled for completion in 2018.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak