Brenda Waters (276) 669-9999
Michelle Earl 276-669-9901

Oct. 16, 2007

I-77 Tunnel Restoration Project: Toll-free number, Safety Service Patrols enhance efforts to help motorists

BLAND COUNTY, Va. – Motorists who travel through the Interstate 77 Big Walker Mountain and East River Mountain tunnels may notice two new efforts to help keep them informed and safe.

To keep motorists informed about travel conditions through the tunnel work zones, VDOT has established a new toll-free phone number, 1-866-7-TUNNEL. Messages on the toll-free number will give motorists real-time information about how traffic is moving through the tunnel work zones.

“Because VDOT continuously monitors traffic in the tunnel work zones, the toll-free phone number will allow us to provide up-to-date traffic info directly to motorists,” Ken King, VDOT Southwest Virginia regional operations director, said.

In addition to the new toll-free phone number, VDOT’s Safety Service Patrol program will begin patrols along Interstate 77 between Exits 24 and 58 and Interstate 81 between Exits 70 and 86.

VDOT’s Safety Service Patrol assists stranded motorists and provides traffic control during traffic incidents. The patrollers wear bright, highly visible uniforms and drive specially equipped white trucks. When possible, the patrol will:

* Jump start vehicles
* Provide gasoline or diesel fuel
* Provide water
* Change tires
* Start debris removal in the event of an accident
* Provide cellular telephone service to a disabled motorist
* Provide directions and a state map
* Provide CPR and limited first aid until emergency services arrive

VDOT’s Safety Service Patrol will be available to motorists from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. each day.

“Having VDOT’s Safety Service Patrol in the area while the tunnels are being reconstructed assists motorists in need of help, but it also assists VDOT with managing traffic more efficiently during the restoration project,” King said.

In the coming weeks, motorists can anticipate 24/7 northbound lane closures at northbound Big Walker Mountain Tunnel due to installation of barrier wall along the side walls of the tunnel. The 24/7 closures are necessary to allow the concrete to cure properly and to keep motorists a safe distance from the concrete forms and the anchor bolts used during the curing process.

The completion date for the rehabilitation project is December 2008.

Morning travel remains the best option for avoiding delays through the work zones. Additionally, there are detour routes motorists can take:

* Between West Virginia and Tennessee, Route 19 from Bluefield to Abingdon is suggested. The road is four lanes wide the entire length. Route 19 can be accessed off Interstate 81 Exit 14 at Abingdon and off I-77 Exit 66 at Bluefield.

* Between Princeton, W.Va., and Blacksburg, Route 460 is suggested. The road is four lanes wide for the entire length. Route 460 can be accessed off I-77 Exit 9 in West Virginia and off I-81 Exit 118B near Christiansburg.

* Between North Carolina and West Virginia, motorists can use Route 52 in Virginia from Wytheville to Rocky Gap. Route 52 is a scenic, but curvy, mountainous road suitable for automobiles. It is not recommended for box trucks or larger vehicles. This is a reasonable alternative to traveling through the tunnels in the afternoon. It can be accessed in Virginia off I-81 Exit 70 and from Route 460 in Bluefield, W.Va.

Loads over 12 feet wide can use Route 19 or Route 460 as the detour during lane closures at the tunnels.

Before beginning your trip, call 511 Virginia or visit for the current travel conditions. Motorists outside Virginia can dial (866) MY-511-VA (866-695-1182). Also, check the travel advisories section of each week for lane closure information.

Information in VDOT news releases was accurate at the time the release was published. For the most current information about projects or programs, please visit the project or program Web pages. You may find those by searching by keyword in the search Virginia DOT box above.

Page last modified: Oct. 17, 2012