VIDEO CAPTURED BY DOH EMPLOYEE AS CREWS WORK TO CLEAR SLIDE
It’s not an easy fix on Interstate 77 northbound in Mercer County. The two lanes, closed Wednesday after a rock slide, will likely be closed into the weekend.
State DOH Communications Specialist Carrie Bly says the hillside near mile marker 3 has yet to stabilize and a contractor on site is working at the top of the hillside to push down the remaining loose debris.
“We want to make sure we let nature run its course,” Bly said. “So we’re having equipment up at the top of the slope there and we’re actually going to be pushing it down. So there could be more slides that occur but we want to stabilize it before we make permanent corrections.”
The detour for northbound I-77 traffic remains from Bluefield to Princeton on U.S. Route 460. That has proven to be slow at times.
“We’re taking interstate traffic and being forced to put them through smaller communities,” Bly said. “It’s our best option and we do ask for people to be patient.”
The DOH has already put a retaining wall between the slide and the fast lane. They hope to have the hillside stabilized and the area cleaned up sometime over the weekend so they can reopen one lane of traffic.
Bly says the DOH has pretty amazing video of the rock slide.
“One of our engineers was just there on site. Some of the smaller rocks had started to fall. He started recording it and it just goes and then it gets worse. You see the trees uprooted and it’s coming down,” Bly said. “It’s a perfect example to the public of why we don’t want to take a chance and we’d rather be safe than sorry.”
PREVIOUS A busy section of Interstate 77 just north of the West Virginia state line will likely be closed until sometime Thursday following a major rock slide.
State Division of Highways spokesman Brent Walker told MetroNews the slide occurred at around 10 a.m. Wednesday near the three-mile marker just north of Bluefield, blocking both northbound lanes of Interstate 77 in Mercer County. The southbound lanes remained open.
“It’s a pretty major slide for sure,” Walker said.
The hillside above the slide was still unstable Wednesday afternoon as the DOH transported contractors to the scene. Eventually, heavy equipment will be used to remove the hundreds of rocks and boulders.
“We just need to get this stuff picked up and moved out and that’s where the heavy equipment will come in,” Walker said.
Northbound I-77 traffic is being directed off at the Bluefield exit and rerouted onto U.S. 460 to Princeton at I-77 exit 9.
Several large trucks that got caught close to the slide reportedly had problems turning around because of a safety cable barrier in the median on that section of the interstate leaving little room for the drivers to manuever.
Walker said the detour isn’t lengthy.
“It’s just really about a seven- or eight-mile detour, so we’re fortunate in that regard and with just a few turns you can get right back up to the interstate,” he said.
The stretch of -77 from Princeton to Bluefield is maintained by the state DOH. The West Virginia Turnpike begins and ends at the Princeton exit.