The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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March 21, 2013

Northbound I-77 remains closed near W.Va.-Va. state line

Highways officials not sure how long detour will be in effect

BLUEFIELD — Traffic in the northbound lanes of Interstate 77 between Bluefield and Princeton is still being detoured this morning to U.S. Route 460 as Division of Highway crews determined what needs to be done to stabilize the rock slide that blocked both northbound lanes of traffic on the interstate Wednesday.

Northbound lanes of Interstate 77 were closed Wednesday evening as state crews worked to remove a major rock slide that blocked lanes and caused long delays that rippled onto nearby U.S. Route 460.

Northbound tractor-trailers, cars, motor homes and a submarine were stuck for several hours after the lanes were closed. Crews were able later to open one lane and allow stuck motorists to get past the rock slide, but administrators decided to close that section of the lanes – between the third and fourth mile markers – until they determined how to clean up the area safely.

District Manager Tom Camden said Wednesday evening that he could not estimate when the rock fall would be cleared away.

The West Virginia Department of Highways learned at approximately 10 a.m. Wednesday that pieces of a cliff were falling onto I-77 between the third and fourth mile markers, Camden said. Traffic was stopped as the problem became more serious.

“And about 1 o’clock, the bulk of it came down,” Camden said at the scene.

A jumble of boulders, some as big or bigger than refrigerators and cars, came down the embankment and blocked the right-hand lane. DOH personnel started putting up concrete barriers in hopes that traffic between Exit 1 and the rock fall could get past. The DOH set up a detour by letting traffic leave I-77 at Exit 1, proceed down John Nash Boulevard, then travel on U.S. Route 460 to Princeton. Motorists could then go north again on I-77.

Traffic was at a near standstill Wednesday evening on U.S. 460, eastbound from Crumpecker Hill to at least as far as the Ingleside Road exit, Daily Telegraph sports writer Tom Bone said while driving through the area.

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