By Anne Elgin
For The Register-Herald
The West Virginia Division of Highways will be closing a section of Interstate 77 in Mercer County today to allow for a controlled blasting of a slipping hillside.
The I-77 northbound slow lane between mile marker 3 and 3.5 has been closed to traffic since Dec. 2 due to the instability of the hillside. After consulting with a contractor, highway crews decided to address the issue by bringing down the hillside with explosives.
I-77 from mile-marker 1 to mile-marker 9 and a section of W.Va. 112 that runs parallel to the interstate will be closed to traffic today sometime between 10 a.m. and noon.
West Virginia Division of Highways District 10 Administrator Tom Camden said motorists are asked to be aware of the planned closure.
“A couple of weeks ago we noticed a number of rocks on the shoulder,” Camden said. “In an attempt to be proactive we have contacted a geologist and engineers and the immediate decision was to hire a contractor to oversee the blasting and stabilize the hillside.”
Highway crews and the contractor will work to reopen the southbound lanes within 30 minutes of the blast once the debris is removed from the roadway. The northbound lanes will remain closed the remainder of the day to allow for additional work by the contractor and to allow time for debris removal.
The northbound fast lane is anticipated to open by dusk. The slow lane will remain closed indefinitely to allow for additional debris removal.
Northbound traffic will be detoured onto U.S. 52 at Exit 1, then onto U.S. 460 east, and back onto I-77 north in Princeton at Exit 9. Flaggers will be placed at strategic intersections along U.S. 460 in Princeton to assist in the movement of traffic. Drivers should anticipate an extra 30 to 45 minutes of travel.
Local traffic is advised to use alternative routes during the closure.
— Elgin is a writer for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph