I-77 toll lane subcontractor who drove dump truck into bridge banned from work on project
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The North Carolina Department of Transportation is considering fines after a driver for a subcontractor working on the I-77 toll lanes project drove a dump truck with its bed lifted into a bridge.
- I-77N lanes to I-85 reopened around 7 p.m. Wednesday to get traffic flowing to I-85
- I-77N lanes shut down again at 9 p.m. Wednesday to remove the structure that was damaged. Traffic was restricted on I-77N to I-85 only
- At 11 p.m., I-77N closed for previously scheduled construction until about 5 a.m. Thursday
- Just before 5 a.m., crews reopened all lanes
Construction crews then decided to dismantle the bridge because of safety concerns.
The crash happened before noon Wednesday on I-77 northbound near the I-85 interchange.
Lanes had to shut down for eight hours; however, a previously scheduled closure resulted in the lanes being closed for 19 hours.
The driver of the truck has been charged with careless and reckless driving, according to the North Carolina Highway Patrol.
In addition to the charges, Sugar Creek Construction, the main contractor, said the driver has been banned from work on the I-77 project.
"The form was removed yesterday afternoon," Heather DeLapp, of Sugar Creek Construction, said Thursday. "The damaged pieces have been removed and we have ordered replacement parts. Once they arrive, repairs will be made and the form will be placed again."
DeLapp said the driver was working for Blue Max Trucking.
The company has been involved with the toll lane project since its start. Blue Max is based in southwest Charlotte and hauls aggregates and asphalt.
DeLapp said the company is in good standing.
Michelle Ferlauto, of the Lake Norman Transportation Safety Partnership, said I-77 has become like a reality series.
"Every week it is something else," Ferlauto said. "Usually, it is something negligent. Yesterday was no different than any other day it seems."
Ferlauto hopes NCDOT will issue a heavy fine because of the extensive road closure.
"The cars around them could have been put at risk, the workers on the structure could have been put at risk," Ferlauto said. "I don't know what it will take to get their attention that you cannot just put public safety at risk."
NCDOT said there are alarms trucks can have in place to alert drivers when their beds are raised but they are not required in North Carolina.
Troopers said the driver was operating a 2017 Kenilworth model truck, but it is unclear if this technology was in place and working.
Troopers added that based on initial investigation everything appeared to be working in the truck and the mistake was driver error.
Charlotte state Rep. Chaz Beasley, whose grandfather was a truck driver, said it might be time to explore whether the alarms should be required.
"Ultimately, our goal should always be to make the highway safer not only for drivers around truckers but for truckers themselves," Beasley said. "I still can't quite wrap my head around how this happened."
Blue Max Trucking did not respond to a request for comment.
A Channel 9 viewer recorded video of the crash.
Crews had been building a new flyover for the I-77 express lanes when the crash happened.
From Chopper 9 Skyzoom, viewers could see the damage to the truck.
Traffic was backed up for miles, and authorities had to divert drivers onto I-85 northbound.
"Can't say that I can recall in the recent past that something like this has happened," said North Carolina Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jen Thompson.