Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 14, 2013

Crews blast I-77 mountain

By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Northbound lanes of Interstate 77 near Bluefield will be closed by 7 a.m. today while road crews clear away more rocks on a cliff overlooking the highway.

Traffic was halted twice Friday while stone was blasted and road crews worked to reduce the chances for rockslides. The cliff above mile-marker 3 along I-77 near Bluefield raised concerns when road crews saw rocks that had fallen from the cliff overlooking the highway. In March, the northbound lanes near that location were closed for several days by a major rockslide.

Tom Camden, supervisor for District 10 of the state Department of Highways, said there would be no additional blasting Saturday.

Contractors working with the state Department of Highways blasted the cliff at noon. Traffic coming north and south was halted until the operation was completed. Southbound lanes were reopened approximately 30 minutes later. Northbound traffic was rerouted onto the eastbound lanes of Route 460 and back to I-77 at Princeton.

“And the contractor is now going to try to remove some of the loose material by hand. The southbound lane of I-77 is now reopened again,” Camden said after the first round of blasting was completed. “The northbound lane, as we said before, will remain closed for a while until we make sure everything is OK.”

The contractors soon realized that a second round of blasting was necessary. Camden informed the Bluefield Daily Telegraph about the second blast scheduled for 4 p.m. Traffic again had to be stopped in all lanes.

“Apparently they weren’t able to remove as much material as they thought they would be able to by hand, so it looks like they’re going to have to do another blast,” Camden said of the contractors’ efforts. “Which will require us once again to close down the southbound lane.”

“The northbound lanes will be closed for as long as it takes us to clear the roadway,” he said. “And even then, only the fast lane will be open.”

The second blasting was completed at approximately 4:30 p.m. and the southbound lanes reopened at about 4:45 p.m., Camden said, adding that he hoped to see the fast lane on the northbound side reopen by sunset.

The slow lane could remain closed until the department of highways can ensure that the hillside has been stabilized, Camden stated.