UPDATE: Nighttime lane closure expected for repairs on tunnel - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Nighttime lane closure expected for repairs on tunnel

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UPDATE: Highway officials say that one lane in the northbound tube of the I-77 East River Mountain Tunnel will be closed tonight.

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, the lane will be closed from 8 p.m. on Wednesday night until 7 a.m. Thursday morning. During this time, workers will be cleaning the ventilation system and making electrical repairs. The southbound lane will be unaffected.

The VDOT will also be examining the tunnel's structure to decide if there are any repairs needed on the concrete inside the tunnel. Plans will be made for concrete repairs once the test results are available.

Ken King, Regional Operations Manager, says "The repairs we need to make will take weeks, but most can be accomplished at night and will minimally impact motorists."

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UPDATE: The West Virginia Division of Highways says motorists can still expect periodic lane closures over the next several weeks as work continues inside East River Mountain Tunnel.


Carrie Bly with WVDOH says crews completed their cleaning inside the tunnel Tuesday night, but electrical and duct work remains to be finished.


A previous news release from WVDOH Wednesday morning stated that "the Virginia Department of Transportation was able to complete its repairs of the East River Mountain Tunnel overnight" and that there would be no need for a previously scheduled tunnel closure Wednesday evening.


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UPDATE: (WVVA) - Highway officials say repairs are complete on the East River Mountain Tunnel.

According to the West Virginia Division of Highways, there will be no need for a closure of the northbound lanes Wednesday evening. All lanes will remain open. 

Tuesday night through Wednesday morning the northbound lanes were shutdown through the tunnel so repairs could be made caused by a tractor trailer fire on Friday. 

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(WVVA) – The northbound lanes of I-77 through the East River Mountain tunnel will close two nights for repairs.

The closures will occur Tuesday night from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. On Wednesday night, the northbound tunnel will close from 8:00 p.m. through 7:00 a.m. Thursday morning.

Northbound traffic will be piloted through the southbound side of the tunnel during the closures. Drivers can expect heavy delays. According to the West Virginia Division of Highways, southbound and northbound traffic will alternate through the tunnel.

The closures are needed to continue to repair damage caused by a tractor trailer fire on Friday.

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NEWS RELEASE -Periodic lane closures are being scheduled for the coming weeks as repairs continue following the Friday afternoon tractor-trailer fire inside I-77 East River Mountain Tunnel.Shortly after 3 p.m. Friday (July 25) authorities responded to a tractor-trailer on fire in the northbound side of the East River Mountain Tunnel on Interstate 77 just inside West Virginia.

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and emergency personnel from Virginia and West Virginia worked simultaneously to extinguish the fire and remove traffic from the north and southbound lanes of the tunnel.

Once the fire was extinguished and motorists where safely removed, the effort of rerouting traffic and closing Interstate 81 at Exit 72 so no additional traffic could enter I-77 north began.

After securing the site, focus shifted to repairs and reopening I-77 safely and efficiently.

“With an incident of this magnitude, it was not simply a question of extinguishing and removing the burned vehicle,” Mike Russell, P.E., VDOT Bristol District Administrator, said. “There were structural evaluations to be made, damaged material to be removed, and repairs to pavement, lighting and other issues to be remedied before we could safely reopen the route.”

“The other major coordination effort involved communicating the situation with neighboring states in hopes they’d help get the word out to motorists. We are thankful for the patience motorists showed and are also thankful to those motorists who heeded warnings and rerouted or postponed their travels.”

Once the structure was determined to be sound, southbound traffic was reopened and work began to remove and replace the damaged asphalt, repair lighting and fiber optics.

About 36 tons of asphalt were repaired during the early morning hours Saturday. Temporary lighting was also added inside the tunnel to ensure safety of the public prior to reopening the right lane around 9 a.m. Saturday.

Approximately 1,600 feet of lighting along the tunnel walls was damaged in fire.

“Crews were able to put enough lighting back together to ensure sufficient safety until permanent repairs are made in the coming weeks,” Ken King, P.E. VDOT Regional Operations Manager, said.

“Knowing how important the I-77 corridor is to motorists - especially during the peak holiday travel season - we were pleased to have the tunnel reopened within almost 24 hours. VDOT is extremely grateful to each emergency response team that was present and realizes cooperation between the two states was a key component to a safe and timely response.”

This week, motorists can expect periodic delays Monday through Thursday nights while work is underway to clean a significant accumulation of soot from the tunnel. In the coming weeks, drivers should be alert to nighttime and periodic daytime lane closures while lighting repairs continue.

The speed limit through the tunnel has been restricted to 45 mph and will remain 45 mph until repairs are complete.
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