BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — The state Division of Highways could close both north and southbound lanes of Interstate 77 in Mercer County on Tuesday to blast away an unstable hillside.

DOH spokesperson Carrie Bly said the agency is hiring a contractor to deal with a situation that could get worse if something isn’t done soon.

“We are going to use explosives and blast that hillside down,” Bly said. “Unfortunately that means there is going to have to be a closure on I-77.”

The DOH hopes the southbound lanes between Princeton and Bluefield will only be closed for about a half-hour following the blasting, but the northbound lanes could be closed for an entire day. If that’s the case, the DOH will reinstitute a U.S. Route 460 detour that was used last spring following a rockslide just north of the new problem area.

“Our hope is we can do it in one big blast, bring down the hillside that’s unstable and clean up the southbound lanes and get that traffic flowing,” she said.

A few days ago the DOH closed one northbound lane three miles from the state line when maintenance crews noticed rocks had started to fall in the area.

“We know that this hillside is unstable,” Bly said, “and if we don’t do anything and take action and cause a little bit of inconvenience that hillside could come down and people could get hurt.”

The DOH hopes to have its final plan ready by early in the week.


bubble graphic


bubble graphic


  • wvajoker

    wowbagger, that area is 2 mi. from the St. Clair fault line and has nothing to do with the problems. It was a poor slope design done when I-77 was constructed in the late 60's. The cut area is a make up of sandstone with mudseams. Weathering washes out the mudseams and during this time of year the freezing of the wet mudseams causes swelling and dislocation of the sandstone boulders which undermines support of upper lying boulders.

    • Wowbagger

      Faults of the magnitude of the St. Clair, with a displacement of several miles are not lines, they are zones and are frequently quite complex with multiple splays. Most southern Appalachian low angle reverse faults of that vintage are really sloppy, or perhaps I should say complex.

      I'm not saying you are wrong, but I would like to understand the geologic setting and don't get down that way often with time to stop and investigate. What unit is the interbedded sandstones and mudstones in? What is the dip? Are the beds overturned?

      • Wowbagger

        Oh, forgot the most important part. Do you have the exact location in any coordinate system?

  • Wowbagger

    I haven't been down there since the last occurrence, but it is highly likely that this related to broken rock in an old (300 million years or so) inactive fault zone named the St. Clair. If I am correct this rock slide might recurr periodically for a long time. The slide results from broken non-self supporting rock in the fault zone not any recent movement.

  • Dennis

    Who is the contractor? Does this not require a competitive bid since this is taxpayer monies? Will prevailing wages be paid?

    • Chef Camille

      Let's hire some good old boy to fix it then wait for another slide to occur when it rains.

    • BH

      This is an urgent set of circumstances that requires a pro-active response by the DOH. Good for them.

      • Dennis

        That proactive response the last time left us with the need to fix it again.

        • Dude

          If will open your eyes and read the article carefully, this problem is in a different location from the previous. I applaud the DOH for taking to immediate action to correct the situation instead of being "politically correct" (bidding the job) and chancing someone being seriously injured or killed. Wake up and use some common sense.

  • Tim C

    Fix it right this time.....don't half-$&% it this time.

    • Mac

      I'm sure that is what they are trying to do. In terms of doing it now, there will be much less traffic than during the summer-vacation season. When the previous incident occurred, the main objective was to re-open that segment quickly due to high travel volume. Now, they can do a long-term fix during low travel times and relieve a major problem area on I-77.