Interstate 77 Tunnel Travel

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 | 12:00 am

VDOT suggests alternatives to avoid congestion during restoration projectBLAND COUNTY, Va. – In May, a $16.5 million tunnel restoration project began at the Interstate 77 mountain tunnels in Bland County, Va. The contract, which is scheduled for completion in summer 2008, includes replacement of the tile on the sides of the tunnel walls; foundation and structural refurbishment; and ventilation, drainage and sidewalk repairs.

Along with such extensive repairs comes the possibility of extensive back-ups. With that in mind, VDOT offers the following alternatives to travelers passing through Virginia to points beyond:

  • Morning Travel is best: During the summer construction, traffic has been at its peak between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. VDOT recommends morning travel to avoid lengthy delays. If afternoon travel is a must, Tuesdays and Thursdays until Labor Day there will be no lane closures after 4 p.m.
  • Detours can save time: Motorists traveling to Virginia or just through Virginia can consider some alternative routes during the tunnel reconstruction:
    • Between West Virginia and Tennessee, Route 19 from Bluefield to Abingdon is a suggested alternative. The route is four lanes the entire length. Route 19 can be accessed off Interstate 81 Exit 14 in Abingdon and off Interstate 77 at Exit 66 in Bluefield.
    • Between Princeton, W. Va. and Blacksburg, Va., Route 460 is a suggested alternative and is also a four-lane route the entire length. Route 460 can be accessed off I-77 in West Virginia at Exit 9 and off Interstate 81 Exit 118B in the Christiansburg area of Virginia.
    • Between North Carolina and West Virginia, motorists can utilize Route 52 between Wytheville and (Rocky Gap) to avoid the tunnel project. Although Route 52 is a curvy, mountainous road – more suitable for vehicular traffic, but not recommended for box trucks or larger – this would be considered a reasonable alternative to afternoon travel through the tunnel project. It can be accessed in Virginia off Interstate 81 Exit 70 or from Route 460 in Bluefield, W. Va.

Before you begin your trip, know the current travel conditions. Motorists can call 5-1-1 outside of Virginia by dialing 1-800-578-4111, a toll-free number. Log onto www.511Virginia.org and sign up for a free e-mail alert system that sends traffic incident information directly to your e-mail account.

Also, check VDOT’s website, www.VirginiaDOT.org, for lane closure information. From the main web page, click on Travel Advisories, then select southwestern Virginia from the map. The entries are updated weekly and will provide the most up-to-date information about the I-77 tunnel projects and other high profile projects in southwestern Virginia.