Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

January 5, 2012

Water line project in tunnel not expected to impact travel

BLAND, Va. — A large-scale water-line replacement project planned inside of the East River Mountain Tunnel isn't expected to impact interstate traffic, officials said Wednesday.

Contractors will begin installing more than 5,000 feet of new water line inside of the tunnel later this winter to replace an aging system that has developed several leaks, Rodney Ratliff, director of public works for Bland County, said.

“It should go from one end of the tunnel to the next,” Ratliff said of the new water line. “Basically, we've had some leaks in the old line that is there. It is just difficult to make the repairs due to the way the old line is. We are going back in and replacing it with the new. It (the water line) is above traffic.”

Ratliff said the construction crews are proposed to be inside of the tunnel and above traffic.

“Because the work will be above traffic, we don't anticipate it affecting motorists,” Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Michelle Earl said. “The current line will remain in service until the other is up and running.”

 “The water line feeds Rocky Gap and the Rocky Gap rest areas as well as providing water to the tunnel itself. The water line is not owned or maintained by VDOT, but it goes through the tunnel,” she said.

Ratliff said bids on the project will be opened on January 10. The current target date for the start of construction is late February or early March.

“The new line is proposed to go in the overhead right-hand lane,” Ratliff said. “The construction materials should go in the north and south side of the tunnels.”

Although things could change as the construction begins, Ratliff said officials do not believe that traffic in the interstate tunnel will be impacted at this time.

In fact, he said motorists should be able to pass through the tunnel without even knowing that the work is underway high overhead.

— Contact Charles Owens at

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