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No License: Truck Driver On I-77 Crew Charged In Incident That Caused 12-Mile Backup

An NCDOT traffic camera showed I-77 northbound at Mile 21 jammed around 2 p.m. on May 12 because of work on the damaged sign near Exit 31.

Updated 4:15 p.m.
A truck driver who struck an overhead sign while working on the I-77 widening project in Mooresville last week is facing charges after police found he did not have a valid license. The accident led to a day-long backup on the interstate and side roads in the Lake Norman area.

Maurice Marcel Mason of Charlotte was charged with reckless driving and driving while his license was revoked, according to the State Highway Patrol.

The accident happened last Friday(May 12th) around 12:30 a.m. on I-77 northbound near Exit 31. Mason was in the right northbound lane with his truck bed raised when he ran into the sign.

The highway patrol says he left the scene without notifying police. He later returned, and told police he left to get the company's owner to show him what had happened, according to an accident report.  

Workers kept two of the highway's three lanes closed for much of the daywhile they repaired the damaged sign. That backed up traffic as much as 12 miles, to I-485 in north Charlotte.

A spokeswoman for contractor I-77 Mobility Partners referred questions about the incident to Sugar Creek Construction, the lead subcontractor building the toll lanes.

That company said in a statement Friday morning only that it was aware of the accident.  Later, a spokeswoman  said the driver worked for a "third tier" subcontractor, and that it happened outside the construction zone. 

The NCDOT says it's still investigating whether to impose a penalty on the contractor. A key issue is whether the accident violated terms of the construction contract.

"We are assessing all the details and investigating what action to take," an NCDOT spokeswoman said Friday afternoon. 

The DOT recently has fined I-77 Mobility Partners twice for keeping lanes closed after 5 a.m., in violation of the project contract. The latest came this week when NCDOT fined the company $1.36 million for lane closures that backed up traffic Tuesday on I-77 near uptown.


I-77Express.com, the official website of the I-77 toll-lane project.

David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.