UPDATE: Repairs Complete on Tunnel Along W.Va. Turnpike after Semi Fire

By: WSAZ News Staff, Associated Press Email
By: WSAZ News Staff, Associated Press Email

UPDATE 7/30/14 @ 8 a.m.
BLUEFIELD, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The tunnel damaged by a fire near Bluefield has been repaired a few days earlier than expected.

The West Virginia Division of Highways announced Wednesday the Virginia Department of Transportation was able to complete its repairs of the East River Mountain Tunnel Tuesday night.

According to the release, there will be no need for the closure Wednesday evening. The northbound tunnel will remain open.

Crews closed the northbound tunnel Tuesday night to repair the damage caused by a tractor trailer that caught fire inside the tunnel last Friday. The closure caused some traffic delays for drivers during the evening hours.



UPDATE 7/29/14 @ 9:55 a.m.
BLUEFIELD, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Repair work is expected to cause some traffic headaches for drivers along the West Virginia Turnpike.

Starting Tuesday, the West Virginia Department of Transportation will help the Virginia Department Transportation close the northbound lanes of the East River Mountain Tunnel along Interstate 77 near Bluefield. Crews will be repairing the damage caused by a tractor trailer that caught fire inside the tunnel last Friday.

Crews will close the tunnel Tuesday, July 29 from 8 p.m. until 8 a.m. on Wednesday, July 30 and then again Wednesday night 8 p.m. through 7 a.m. on Thursday, July 31.

During the closure, the northbound traffic will be sent through the southbound side of the tunnel. According to a news release, this will be a rolling stop, allowing both southbound and northbound traffic to alternate through the tunnel. I-77 will not be completely closed, but drivers should expect heavy delays.



UPDATE 7/26/14 @ 5:00 p.m.
BLUEFIELD, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- All lanes of the East River Mt. Tunnel are back open, according to the West Virginia Department of Transportation.

The tunnel closed for hours Friday night after a fire inside caused traffic to back up for miles.

The southbound lanes reopened Friday night, and a northbound lane opened Saturday morning.

As of Saturday evening, all lanes are back open.

UPDATE 7/26/14 @ 5:00 p.m.
BLUEFIELD, W.Va. (AP) - One northbound lane has reopened after a tractor-trailer fire filled an Interstate 77 tunnel with black smoke and backed up traffic for miles.

Both southbound lanes reopened about 9:15 p.m., Friday.

The fire sent two West Virginia firefighters to a hospital.

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph reports that the fire in the East River Mountain Tunnel near West Virginia's border with Virginia was extinguished by 5:50 p.m. Friday, more than 2½ hours after it was reported.

Mark Perkins, a firefighter with the Green Valley-Glenwood Volunteer Fire Department, said two of his colleagues were transported to Bluefield Regional Medical Center for treatment for smoke inhalation.

Several other departments also responded.

Bluefield Fire Chief Jeff Warden said the smoke pouring out of the tunnel was so thick that for about 50 feet from the entrance "you couldn't see your hand in front of your face."

UPDATE 7/25/14 @ 10 p.m.
MERCER COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The southbound lanes of Interstate 77 are expected to reopen within 30 minutes at the East River Tunnel in Mercer County, according to the latest information from West Virginia 511.

It is unknown, though, when the northbound lanes will reopen. It could be days, the West Virginia Department of Transportation reports.

The closure has been caused by a tractor-trailer fire inside the tunnel. That fire started about 3 p.m. Friday. There was no word of injuries.

Meanwhile, the West Virginia Department of Transportation has posted video of cleanup efforts within the tunnel. Just click on the related link to the right to see it.



ORIGINAL STORY 7/25/14 @ 7:56 p.m.
MERCER COUNTY, W.Va. (AP) -- A fire inside the East River Tunnel near West Virginia's border with Virginia has stopped traffic on Interstate 77.

West Virginia Turnpike State Police dispatcher D.L. Parsons says a tractor trailer was on fire Friday inside the tunnel. He says first responders are having difficulty getting into the tunnel, and the blaze wasn't suppressed as of 30 minutes ago.

Parsons says traffic north and south is closed and there's no estimate for reopening it. Drivers are being redirected onto U.S. Route 460 at Princeton.

The Virginia Department of Transportation website says traffic is backed up for 6 miles.

Virginia State Police dispatcher J. Marshall says the fire started around 3 p.m. She says Virginia police haven't heard of injuries.


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