I-77 Diaries: New data shows spike in crashes during construction

The I-77 toll lanes project is becoming dangerous to drive through, according to new data released by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. 

From uptown to Iredell County, there has been 4,650 crashes since construction began in late November, according to the latest NCDOT data, which was released Thursday and is current as of May 1. The number of crashes spiked 62 percent compared to the three years before construction started.

Also on the rise:

  • Rear-end collisions increased by more than 50 percent.
  • Hitting "fixed objects" like concrete barriers increased by 99 percent.
  • Sideswipe crashes spiked 113 percent. 

"Would you say the construction going on right now is the biggest factor in the spike in these crashes?," asked reporter Matt Grant. 

DOCUMENT: I-77 Express Lanes Work Zone Monitoring – 2 Year Update

DOCUMENT: I-77 Express Lane Work Zone Comparison to other High Profile Interstate Work Zones 

"Does it contribute to the fact that crashes have increased? Yes," said NCDOT State Traffic Engineer Kevin Lacy. "Whenever you constrict the area, high speed traffic, and a lot of volume of traffic there's more opportunity for people to run into each other."

Lacy says fewer, more narrow lanes is causing congestion, which accounts for 80 percent of crashes, according to officials. 

The data shows other high profile work zones are also seeing a similar increase in the number of construction related wrecks. 

Officials are urging drivers to slow down, use caution and pay attention.

'We're not blaming the drivers," said Lacy. "But the key thing is when you're in a work zone  it does demand a higher level of attention." 

The I-77 toll lanes are scheduled to open by the end of the year.