Drivers concerned about why some Triangle highways are so dark

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Drive around the Triangle at night or in the early morning and chances are…you’re driving in the dark.

Drivers have complained to us how dark some stretches of interstate highways are, so CBS 17 went to the state to ask why and if there are plans to improve lighting here in the Triangle.

Tiffany Johnston has been a ride share driver for two and a half years and she says a lot of her time on the road is during the early morning hours. She’s one of the many people who wants to see improvements, pointing out that there are stretches where you won’t see a single light for miles.
“I have bumped my car just because you don’t even see how the road cuts off and you hit into an embankment, almost,” Johnston said.

NCDOT says lighting is usually only done when they’re fixing or expanding roads and the department goes through a process to determine if lighting is needed.

“You put in all these factors…geometric factors, environmental factors, energy costs, construction costs,” says Greg Hall, NCDOT’s lighting and electrical team lead.

DOT says because of that process, they’re adding more lights on I-40 as part of the widening project they’re working on right now on I-40 between Southeast Raleigh and Clayton. But other areas, like most of interstate 440 and 540, will have to wait.

“The problem that we have for the remainder of 440 and the northern portion of 540 is that those projects are complete, and lighting is installed generally as part of a roadway project,” Hall said.

The department’s largest lighting project in recent years was in 2017 when the state spent nearly $32 million on LED light fixtures. Crews wrapped up that project nearly two years ago, but CBS 17 recently noticed several lights that aren’t working.

The state says there’s a 10-year warranty on those lights, so if one goes out, the company that provided the lights will replace them but if it’s an infrastructure problem, the state must pay for it.
“If it’s one of the fixtures set up on a median barrier, to set up the lane closures for that type of replacement are expensive,” Hall said.

NCDOT sent a memo in the fall of 2020 about evaluating their lighting policy and in October the roadway lighting policy went into effect. DOT says it’s fixing what they can but they’re trying to be strategic in making those repairs.

If you would like to see better lighting in your area, please send us an email at

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