Here’s why drivers are stuck in nightly, blood pressure-raising I-77 traffic snarls


Another reason not to be out late at night:

The typical 35-minute drive from uptown Charlotte to Mooresville has turned into a blood pressure-raising 1 to 2 hours because of nightly work on both ends for toll lanes.

All 26-miles of the project are under construction, I-77 Mobility Partners said in a project update on Monday.

The update makes no mention of how long drivers are stuck in traffic as multiple lanes are scrunched into one along southern and northern stretches of the project. But drivers have reported to the Observer sitting in traffic as long as two hours late at night and early in the morning each week night.

Near uptown Charlotte, drivers get stuck in bottlenecks because of a detour between the Interstate 85/I-77 interchange and the Brookshire Freeway-I-277/I-77 interchange. The detour lets crews continue work on the Oaklawn Avenue bridge and LaSalle Street bridge, according to I-77 Mobility Partners, a subsidiary of Spain-based general contractor Cintra.

Another bottleneck is occurring on a northern leg of the project, shy of Davidson exit 30 (Griffith Street). Traffic is being detoured onto the exit so crews can safely work on the new Griffith Street bridge deck. Crews have placed the first beams on the new half of the bridge, I-77 Mobility Partners said.

In other toll lanes-related work, I-77 Mobility Partners said:

▪ Crews are stabilizing the soil between Mooresville exits 31 (Langtree Road) and 36 (N.C. 150) and are preparing to begin placing asphalt at exit 31 by September.

▪ Construction is “steadily progressing” on the new portion of Reeds Creek bridge over Lake Norman, between exits 33 (U.S. 21/Williamson Road) and 35 (Brawley School Road). The first beams on the new section of the bridge are scheduled to be installed by September.

▪ Preliminary construction activities for a noise barrier wall have started on the west side of I-77 between exits 31 and 33.

▪ Crews continue to lay asphalt between Huntersville exit 23 (Gilead Road) and Cornelius exit 28 (West Catawba/Catawba Avenue). Construction of a permanent concrete barrier wall that will separate the northbound and southbound toll lanes continues near exit 28.

▪ Backfilling is finished on the first part of the Torrence Creek pedestrian tunnel in the I-77 median just north of exit 23. Stabilizing the soil is next in line to ready the area for stone and ultimately asphalt. Traffic will be shifted soon to the inside (median) while crews finish building the outer parts of the pedestrian culvert.

▪ Grading and erosion control work continue between the Hambright Road overpass in Huntersville and the I-485/I-77 interchange. The Hambright Road bridge will close in mid-July as crews begin building a new bridge directly connecting to the I-77 toll lanes.

▪ The foundations are being built for the first half of the new Oaklawn Avenue bridge in Charlotte. Placing beams is the next step. The new and improved bridge will have bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides.

▪ Road widening continues between LaSalle Street and the I-85/I-77 interchange. Embankment and drainage work is complete on the east side of I-77. Crews are preparing to start stabilizing soil in the area. Once improvements are completed, the northbound ramp from LaSalle Street will have a dedicated lane to I-85 northbound.

▪ Construction of the first columns of the ramp from I-277 westbound to I-77 southbound is underway in Charlotte. Crews are grading part of the I-77 southbound lanes by the Brookshire Freeway/I-77 interchange to bring the travel lanes up to the new grade.

To avoid the nightly mess while staying relatively parallel to I-77, drivers in uptown can take East Stonewall Street to South Graham Street, turn left onto Statesville Avenue and then right onto N.C. 115 N/Old Statesville Road.

With traffic lights, the drive takes at least an hour to Mooresville – but keeps the blood pressure steady.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak