GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE)- The hit to the economy caused by COVID-19 is now having an impact on roads in North Carolina. NCDOT confirms to FOX 46 they have had to cut back on interstate maintenance, including debris pickup and cutting grass.
Drivers are beginning to notice the lack of maintenance on interstate 85 in Mecklenburg and Gaston County.
“The City’s like Belmont and Mount Holly and Gastonia are looking like Highways in California, becoming trashy and yes dangerous when the debris are/is run over or thrown into other oncoming traffic damaging windshields and vehicles,” one driver e-mailed to FOX 46.
FOX 46 stopped by the I-85 exit in Mount Holly and we found debris scattered across the shoulder, including hub caps and tire treads. FOX 46 first told you two years ago about the dangers of road debris. A woman was driving on I-485 when a tire tread was kicked up and hit her windshield, causing thousands of dollars in damage.
“The police officer told me that if it had hit me in the middle of the windshield or in the driver side I would have been dead,” said Lisa Neale.
An NCDOT spokesperson says debris removal is beginning to pickup again, but is still lagging behind due to cuts and furloughs at the department.
“As for debris pickup, we use contractors for the bulk of that work. Our interstate maintenance office recently received approval to resume using a sweeper to help remove some debris, so a contractor is working on I-85 and I-77 simultaneously, then will move to I-277. We are utilizing in-house crews on I-485,” said Spokeswoman, Jennifer Thompson.
Thompson added that mowing along highways has been scaled back from about six times a year, to three. A crew is currently working on cutting grass along I-85 this week.
NCDOT documents show about 54% of their transportation budget in made up from gas tax revenue. Less people driving during the pandemic means less revenue is coming in, so cuts have been made.