Ask Us: Why are so many lights out on I-85 in Rowan County

Published 12:10 am Monday, February 16, 2015

Question: I noticed recently that the maintenance of the lighting along I-85 from Exit 68 to Exit 81 is lacking. Of special note, for example, is at Exit 81, where I noticed that the electric meters are missing on the exit signs over the road on both sides of the highway. This is not the only area, however, where the lighting on the signs over the highway is totally out.

Also, along some of the entrance and exit ramps, entire sections of the lights are not working.
It is disappointing to see this lack of basic maintenance on a fairly new stretch of interstate highway, Having this lighting working properly makes the exit signs and ramps much easier to see for older drivers as well as enhances the overall attractiveness of this stretch of highway at night.
It would be a shame to let this area of highway in Rowan County fall in such a state of disrepair that it looks like the darkened sections of interstate highway that prevail and surround Charlotte.
Harry L. Adkins
Answer: The NC Department of Transportation says it has plans to address the unlighted signs with a new reflective material and assess other areas where lights may be out. A funding shortage may have led to lighting not being replaced.
J.P. Couch, the Division 9 traffic engineer, said his budget ran out quickly this fiscal year on the Rowan County section of I-85, which meant not all problems could be fixed. With limited funding, Couch said, his division has to prioritize the most effective spots to spend money.
“It’s basically all depending on the budget,” Couch said.
He said Division 9 recently received an additional allocation of money for maintenance, which is how light replacement would be paid for. With the additional allocation of maintenance money, he said the Department of Transportation should soon be able to assess areas that need replacing.
For signs that aren’t lighted, Couch said the department plans to install signs that are covered by a reflective material. He said the reflective material should negate the need for  lights. Instead, headlights would be enough to light the street signs.
“Because of the reflective sheen, we’re able to avoid some of the maintenance cost and, in the long run, save money,” Couch said.
He said signs in Rowan haven’t been replaced yet because, at last inspection, they were “in decent shape.”
He said the DOT doesn’t replace lights along I-85 until the end of their useful life. The current fiscal year, he said, was the first in Rowan that the DOT didn’t have enough funding for light replacement when repairs were prioritized.
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