Despite a record number vehicles using the I-77 Express, it continues to move goods and people at a faster pace.
The average daily traffic (ADT), which is the rate of vehicles and trucks traveling along the corridor, reached its highest ever level on March 31, 2023. This was a 13,000 increase from the previous year.
However, even though I-77 Express has managed to increase the speed of all lanes by convincing drivers to use its express lanes on a regular basis, this is still faster than it was before the construction of I-77 Express began in 2015.
David Garcia, CEO at I-77 Mobility Partners (the company that designed, constructed, and managed I-77 Express) said, "We are very proud of this achievement." Every time a motorist chooses the express lanes to travel, it frees up space on the general purpose lanes. This means that all drivers benefit from the construction.
I-77 Express, a public-private collaboration between the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and I-77 Mobility Partners is a first of its kind in North Carolina. It developed an innovative solution for a transportation corridor plagued with congestion. I-77 Mobility Partners, in response to a competitive procurement process led by the state, secured over $500 million of private financing. This money did not come out of taxpayers' pockets. It allowed NCDOT to make significant improvements to 26.2 mile of I-77 approximately 20 years ahead of schedule.
These improvements have reduced travel times not only for those drivers who use express lanes, but also for other drivers. Before the construction began in 2015, it took drivers 45 minutes to travel between Charlotte and Mooresville during rush hour. The same trip takes 30 minutes in the general-purpose free lanes.
The dramatic improvement in the safety of the entire corridor is impressive. The accident rate fell from 196 accidents for every 100,000,000 Vehicle Miles (VMT) prior to construction starting in 2015 to 103 accidents in 2022. This is a drop of more than 90%.
Garcia said that it was a good idea. If traffic moves at a faster pace, drivers' behavior will be more predictable. There is less chance of accidents due to brake tapping or erratic movements.
Garcia said that he also hopes to reduce this number even more. I-77 Mobility Partners invests every year millions of dollars into new safety equipment such as cameras which use artificial intelligence in order to detect potential safety hazards. More is coming. Garcia's aim is to build the safest and most technologically advanced road in North Carolina, or even the entire Southeast.