NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It was Super Bowl Sunday night. Harley Gunther had just finished a late shift at work. Driving down I-35E South in Lewisville, he was expecting a quiet ride home on his motorbike. Around 11:30pm, he approached the Corporate Drive exit.
“The bike jerked a bit. The next thing I remember flipping through three or four times,” he told CBS 11 News. “I woke up on the of right side of 35.”
Gunther says he hit a strip of uneven asphalt in the right lane. He says he couldn’t see the raised lip because the overhead lights were out.
The road under construction is part of the I-35E Express Project. The overhead highway lights are out throughout the stretch of the highway running through Dallas County.
A Lewisville police report references the “lights were off” and that Gunther “was unable to see the raised part of the roadway.”
The I-Team drove along I-35E north and south around the Corporate Drive exit.
The I-Team counted more than 100-lights out in less than a two-mile stretch of the highway.
When the I-Team later returned to the area, we rolled up on another motorcycle accident. Thomas Ashmore had fallen off his bike in the same area as Gunther.
“The road itself is dark and it is hard to see,” Ashmore told Senior Investigative Reporter Ginger Allen as he stood bleeding and bruised on the highway. He said his motorcycle had just hit the same uneven road.
“Somebody should do something about this. This is dangerous,” he told CBS 11 News.
THE LIGHT PROBLEMS ON NORTH TEXAS HIGHWAYS
This is not the first time the I-Team has investigated dark stretches on our highways. In late 2015, after receiving complaints from viewers, the I-Team counted more than 100-lights out along I-45 just south of Dallas. At the time, TXDOT records showed the number of fatal crashes in that area had risen. Drivers repeatedly said it was dark with no lighting. Following that I-Team investigation, Oncor and the city re-lit the highway and repaired all of those lights.
But this time, the Texas Department of Transportation says it may take longer for the lights to come back on this stretch of I-35E. In a statement to CBS 11 News, it says, “When the project began, the roadway lights in that area were not operational and the new lighting remains under construction. Lights are being installed but have not been turned on because it is an active construction zone.”
As for the drop in asphalt, TXDOT says, “The elevated pavement in that area is part of the final layer of asphalt for the roadway. The contractors must wait for the nighttime temperatures to be conducive to allowing the paving of the final surface lift to continue.”
NO LIGHTS FOR NOW
Gunther says he is nervous to get back on his bike. “I could have died because some lights weren’t on,” he said.
He believes the state should take responsibility. He has filed a complaint with the state. But the I-Team has learned that TXDOT is denying his claim. A spokesperson tells the I-Team the lip (uneven surface) has the proper slope ratio, and there are uneven surface signs on the road.
Both Gunther and Ashmore told the I-Team they couldn’t see those signs in the dark.
TXDOT says the lights will be turned back on once the current phase of the project is complete. A spokesperson also told the I-Team TXDOT does not use temporary lighting in construction zones, because it is “almost impossible.” She says the ramps and lanes change too often.
RESPONSE TO I-TEAM AND ROAD REPAIR
Since our investigation began, the I-Team has learned of some major developments. The I-Team asked the construction company, AGL Constructors, when it plans to fix the raised pavement.
A spokesperson told the I-Team, “Although the height of the asphalt lip in that location met all regulatory standards, AGL dispatched a crew to reduce the transitional slope of the lip. As the project nears completion this summer, the raised condition of the new asphalt will be present in various locations along the entire corridor and drivers will need to watch for ‘Uneven Pavement’ signs and maintain the proper speeds.”
The spokesperson also told the I-Team, “The lights along the interstate are still being installed along the 30-mile-long corridor. The process of bringing them permanently online will begin this spring and continue until the project is finished.”
FILE A COMPLAINT WITH TXDOT
You can file a claim for damage or injuries at http://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/contact-us/complaints.html
REPORT LIGHTS OUT
If you are aware of a light that is out, you should report it.
You can contact Oncor at http://www.oncor.com/en/pages/report-streetlight-issues.aspx
You can reach the Texas Department of Transportation at http://www.txdot.gov/contact-us/form.html
The I-Team would like to hear from you too. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.