Drivers call for lower speed limit on I-77

- Construction on the controversial toll lane project is going on four months now. Barriers have been up since December which completely eliminates the left shoulder. Yet, the speed limit has stayed the same.

Huntersville Police say they've already seen two semis run into the barrier. Because of accidents like that, drivers are calling for the state to lower the speed limit to keep both drivers and construction workers safe.

"There’s an accident almost every day now in the construction zone," said Kurt Naas who lives in Cornelius.

Naas is against the toll project. He says, since it's moving forward for now, the state and construction company should lower the speed limit to protect both drivers and workers. Currently, the speed limit is 65 miles per hour.

"If changes aren't made, I’d say dot and Cintra would have blood on their hands if there was a serious accident or God forbid a fatality," said Naas.

Other drivers in the area agree the speed limit should go down.

"If they're doing construction, by all means, it's extremely dangerous," said longtime Cornelius resident Mary.

"If you hit that wall, there's nowhere to go at that high rate of speed," said Daniel Wheeler, a driver we spoke with in Cornelius.

Another driver disagreed.

"I don't think it would make any difference. I think once you're driving down the highway, as soon as construction starts, you need to slow down anyway. I don't know what changes to the speed limit would help," said John Lauterbach.

 We checked the numbers and both Cornelius and Huntersville Police say they've responded to less accidents this year on the highway since construction began compared to the same timeframe last year. Cornelius PD responded to 7 accidents this year since construction began and 11 during the same time last year. Huntersville PD had 3 this year and 4 last year.

"The three instances we've responded to in the past four months, two have been for a crash. Large trucks hit the Jersey barrier and bounced back into the other lane and blocked traffic. No serious injuries or crashes," said Major Barry Graham with the Huntersville Police Department.

He says the bigger problem is getting to the crash.

"People use the emergency lane when it's against the law and blocks off emergency vehicle access. Blocking that could cause someone serious injury or their life if not careful," said Graham.

According to the Department of Transportation, the speed limit will be lowered from 65 mph to 55 when lanes need to be closed at night for construction. Other than that, the speed limit will stay the same.

NCDOT also says the construction area will soon have higher fines for speeding. Those won't go into effect until signs are posted.

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