Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 16, 2013

Clearing slide a challenge

I-77 closes again for crews to make road safe for travelers

By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — A contract crew working to stabilize a hillside at the 3-mile marker of the Interstate 77 northbound lanes near Bluefield worked in sub-freezing weather on Sunday to clear rocks from the site and, they hope, to stave off additional slides.

Crew members secured ropes at the top of the hill and rappelled down to manually dislodge loose stones and material. The debris rolled to the apron of the right lane of the interstate where a huge cargo net suspended between two large backhoes prevented the rocks from rolling onto the highway.

 Both northbound lanes of I-77 were closed again on Sunday as the crew went about the meticulous work of making the highway safe for travel. Northbound I-77 traffic has been detoured to U.S. Route 460 east between Exit 1 (Bluefield) and Exit 9 (Princeton) for several days while crews have worked at the site. The Division of Highways has been opening the northbound passing lane at night, and closing it again at 7 a.m. for the crew to resume the work.

“We regret the inconvenience, but safety is our top priority here,” Tom Camden, supervisor of District 10, DOH. “It always seems like something like this happens at the worst time, but it is something we need to address in order to prevent anyone from getting hurt.”

Camden said that the DOH plans to reroute northbound traffic again this morning at 7 a.m. so the crew can continue the work of scaling the loose rock and material from the hillside.

“It’s the same situation that we have encountered all along,” Camden said. “We clear some material and more seems to pop up. The crews are working as hard as they can, but it has been a difficult challenge.”

Camden could not speculate as to when the work at the site will be completed.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com