UPDATE 8:00 p.m. Saturday  The Virginia Department of Transportation opened the second northbound lane in the tunnel.

UPDATE: 9:30 a.m. Saturday   The Virginia Department of Transportation reopened the right hand lane of the northbound tunnel.

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — Interstate 77 southbound at the East River tunnel reopened to West Virginia traffic at about 10 p.m. Friday night after being closed for seven hours following a truck fire in the northbound tunnel.

(See tunnel damage here.)

A tractor-trailer hauling paper boxes caught on fire at shortly after 3 p.m. Motorists were quickly evacuated from the tunnel. The flames did structural damage to the northbound tunnel on the West Virginia-Virginia line near Bluefield. The tunnel is owned by the State of Virginia, which will be in charge of repairs.

Southbound traffic on a busy Friday night of vacation season was rerouted at Princeton onto U.S. Route 460 and then to Interstate 81 south. The backup was for miles.

There’s usually a major backup northbound on Saturday afternoons during the vacation season from at least Wytheville, Va. to Fancy Gap, Va. on I-77. All of that traffic will have to go somewhere else this Saturday, most expected to go I-81 at Wytheville to U.S. Route 460 and then back over to I-77 at Princeton.


 

 

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Comments

  • Bradley

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  • Voter

    I read that it was a mechanical issue with the truck. You guys always blame the truck driver. The majority of truck drivers are professional. Usually when there is a semi crash a 4 wheeler has caused it. Everyone with a drivers license should ride shot gun with a truck driver just too see some of the stupid thing auto drivers do. God bless all truck drivers!!!

  • Bland County Resident

    I travel through both tunnels on a regular basis. Friday night my husband and I went to get our daughter from Bluefield were she had been stuck for hours. We went across 16 to Tazewell. This road is called back of the dragon. You go across two mountains. At the bottom of both mountains there is a big white sign that says no trucks over 35ft allowed on this road unless local delivery. We passed three tractor trailer. I knew that after seeing them we wouldnt be able to go back that way. And sure enough two of the three truck got hung up on the very sharp turns.
    Now I know that sometimes the place u are driving for sends you on these roads but those signs are there for s reason. READ them.

  • Lindsay

    So a truck catches fire and all of a sudden truck drivers are idiots. Lol
    I can't count how many auto drivers I have seen pull in front of a truck that's hauling thousands of pounds of freight, and the driver of the car is oblivious to what the driver of the truck has to do to prevent an accident. Not the truck driver's fault but he/she would certainly be the bad guy if someone got killed. Don't really hear of too many motorcyclists getting hit by Demi's but cars sure run over a bunch. Those truck drivers sure are bad! Lol get a grip people!!

  • Mason County Contrarian

    Good thing Virginia is in charge of repairs. How could Earl have paid for this?

    • Rick

      When the tunnel was built in the early 70's WV agreed to foot the state portion of the bill. WV and federal money built the tunnel. VA agreed to take ownership of the tunnel and provide maintenance. This was a logical arrangement because VA already had Big Walker Tunnel 30 miles on down I77 that they bulit and were going to have to maintain.

  • any major dude

    My experience is that almost all OTC truck drivers are very good drivers.

    Maybe we need to find out what happened here before blaming anybody. At any rate, I doubt if it had anything to do with the trucker slowing up the passing lane!

  • Dee King

    Yes people need to learn at least some of what we cdl drivers know so u four wheelers can learn the correct way to drive around us

  • Joel

    Learn to drive truck drivers!

    • Amy

      Truck drivers take a lot of training to be able to drive. It takes months for someone to get their CDL. They also have to pass numerous tests. How long do motorists have to study and prove they can drive? 40 hours.... not even two days.

  • WV Forever

    Wow, Thank goodness no one was killed! Think about all the comforts of Life. without The transportation system, you wouldn't build that house, stock those grocery stores, it's a never ending list of items mankind needs. Bless all the Truckers out there be safe.
    Drive tip # 1- When you pass a truck on interstate, don't ride beside them get the heck on around them!
    Gooo eers!

  • james

    Sorry to see so many negative comments directed against truck drivers.So many people so ready to assign blame with out ever knowing the facts. I am almost certain the driver of the truck that caught fire in the tunnel would do almost anything to have it never happen. It could have just as easily been a car or a pickup. But because of our size and weight accidents become more magnified. I try to stay away from the cars because quiet frankly there's not a confrontation that you are going to win. Fully loaded I weight as much as 26 cars. Imagine getting hit with that all at once. It ain't pretty. I don't want to hit you run you off the road. But sometimes due to the way our interstate system is designed I do have to sometimes delay you while I am getting up to speed. I don't do it on purpose. As some of you think. The latest statistics from the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) 75% of car and truck accidents the car was at fault. That still leaves a lot of room for improvement but don't be so quick to blame the trucker. We can all do with a little more patience and understanding. To most of us driving is our life and livelihood staying safe is how we get to do it longer and better.

    • Shadow

      If you research the internet, you will find that the distance to stop a fully loaded 18-wheeler is 315 feet. Unloaded it can be further. I would say that the average car if today can stop in 150 feet or better. However, the traffic engineers give them the same time to stop. In WV, it is 5 seconds on the 55 MPH lights. Almost no time for driver reaction if you are a trucker but they do it day after day. It is a setup that causes accidents. Forgot to mention, the 5 sec doesn't change if you are going downhill. All in the interest of reducing the time someone must wait for the light to change and the money derived from folks that run the light. It sure isn't Safety. The moral is: Don't stop quickly when you have an 18-wheeler behind you and don't cut in front of them. Safety Engineers, they are NOT..

    • yeager

      Thank you James,When I drove the blame is put on truck driver.People just don't or can't grasp how hard it is.Thank you

  • snoball221

    Most important is no one was killed nor seriously injured. Now for those turkeys who are bashing truckers, you wanna give it up and think long and hard about where those things you don't need come from, they sure don't fall from the sky, or drop in from a drone. It is people like me, yes I am a driver also, who make a great sacrifice each day that bring this stuff to your favorite retailer. Now in the process I am cut off by 4 wheeled fools who don't like their car, either that or they are looking for free insurance money, one finger saluted, cussed at, SBD why cuz I might be going slow on the enter or exit ramp or slow on a turn or up a hill, but I smile and wave just the same. You say we should be limited to right lane only up a hill, when we come up on a slower one than we are it is better we pass them than risk hitting them for it takes to long to slow down to their speed sometimes, and I have family I must go home to after each tour. See you for get we are patents, moms and dads and even grandparents out here, we love our children and miss them dearly, but yet we sacrifice our family time to be trashed by people who don't care about us. Or so it seems. Put yourself in our seat and stay away from your family a month at a time and see how you would feel if someone talked about you like I have just read here! Not all truckers are daredevils out here, the majority of us care and do drive with caution. FYI LOOK up the statistics and you will see that the number one cause of all accidents are in fact you the very ones who criticize us the truck driver. Yep sorry to bust the bubble cars cause more accidents and even injuries to even the trucker than the trucker ever could imagine causing, it is a proven fact. But what do you care if our children have their parents alive or not so long as you can get your greedy mitts on your wants and desires who cares they are just truckers.

  • jfk

    One comment about truckers on the turnpike (I hate to drive btw) a week ago at the second southbound toll a truck cut across 2 lanes of traffic to try to cut me off and attempt to pass another truck and stay in the passing lane I gunned it and barely got passed him as he was waving his hands as if I had done something wrong. They do not own the road and should at ALL times stay in the slow lane going up hills, they pass other trucks and cause all kinds of problems on the highway. PS I know they haul all our stuff but stay in the slow lane for goodness sake.

    • Shadow

      You had to be King of the Road. Why didn't you have the courtesy to let the trucker take his turn at the toll booth? He was there first. You had to GUN IT to show him your anger. You need an Anger Management Class. Don't blame the trucker for your condition.

  • Rebecca

    I was in the left lane and was not able to pass the truck in the tunnel. I was stuck for a few minutes which felt extremly longer. I saw the flames and pieces falling down. All these cars behind me stopped and no place to go. The tunnel maintenance were so quick to get the tunnel evacuated. I started to back out until I was able to get turned around and drove out of the tunnel. Luckily the truck driver got out safely as well as all the drivers thanks to the quick response of the tunnel workers. I heard the loud explosion that shook the tunnel and my car. Once I got out I thank God we were safe. The scariest thing that ive experienced.

  • Christine Gergen

    We were in the left lane and several cars behind the truck that was in the right when traffic started to slow then eventually stop. A couple of cars put their turn signals on to get in left lane. The truck in front of us let one car merge in and the car next to us started to merge in front of us and quickly stopped and put on blinkers. The flames were shooting out...which was incredibly scary. I floored the gas and went past the truck as the tunnel filled with smoke. We got out along with 2 or 3 cars behind us. I read that as people were backing out there was an explosion. We prayed that all got out of there safely.

  • The other guy

    I suggest taking a ride with a truck driver, go on a run near a major city and witness the stupid driving tricks pulled by people driving cars and you may rethink your position/opinion about trucks on the road, unless you see it you will not believe some of it.