East River Mountain Tunnel
By Christie Whitt  


         The East River tunnel took 5 years to complete and as a result a new passage way was created into Bland County. There was a joint project between Virginia Department of Transportation and West Virginia Department of Highways. In 1963 an agreement was made between Virginia and West Virginia paid entire bill for construction and Virginia for continued maintained. TheEngineer was Michael Baker of Pittsburgh and Ball and Healey as construction Contractors. Truman Corporations was responsibly for electricity work. Court Construction built on each side of the tunnel Porte Buildings. How many hours a day did the workers work? “The workers’ hours were very long, They worked six days a week and eight hours a day.” said Stanley Dillow. Although the tunnel was very well planned, there were many problems. What was an example of a problem? “There was one problem that we encountered often and that was springs and grouts. When this would happen we would seal off the water with concrete.” Stanly Dillow said. There was a cave in the occurred 530 feet in from the South opening on the Virginia side, and 300 feet in from the North opening on the West Virginia side. A day or two after that the same incident happened in the North Bound Tunnel. As a result of the cave in the workers encountered soft eroded rock with mud seams and large spaces refilled limestone caverns. What did the workers do when the rocks fell in? “In cases like these when the rocks fell the workers had to fill up the holes With steel.” Stanly replied. In August 1970 conditions were so difficult that the contractor and to go back to Top Heading and Bench Operations to use soft ground procedures for digging. The strength of the tunnels is reinforced with concrete and still arches that were placed in the tubes first. Behind the walls of the tunnel is steel supports, concrete, steel arches, and the rock mountain. The ventilation system, which exhaust and clean air fans and electrical systems are above the ceiling of the tunnel. There are 24 fans in the tunnel consisting of the 12 exhaust fans and 12 fresh air fans. The fans can totally change the air in the tunnel in 2 minutes. The Temperature in the tunnel is about the same as it is outside due to the ventilation fans. Also in the tunnel surrounding you7 is 5,600 tons of concrete for the roadway,313,000 square feet of ceramic tiles. The East River tunnel is 5,41.24 feet long. The East River tunnel is 1,077 feet below the mountaintop. At the south opening on the Virginia side is 2,436 feet above sea level and the North opening on the West Virginia side it is 2,541 feet in elevation. The interstate that goes threw the tunnel from Virginia to West Virginia is slightly uphill. The rocks that are under the tunnel are older then the material found in coalfields in our area. They were formed between 265-300 million years ago. The Assistant district Engineer said that “The biggest problem was digging threw the different layers of rock in which there was 12”? The people around the county were very excited about the new tunnel. They were always saying we don’t have to travel as far now Harold Tuner from Bluefield said. The tunnel cost the West Virginia Department of Highways a total of 37 million dollars, the biggest expense ever, for West Virginia. The Grand Opening of the tunnel was December 20 1974 with Governor Mills Godwin of Virginia and Governor Aaron Moore of West Virginia. Governor Mill Godwin - This tunnel will bring the citizens together. He said “The Development of this system is without question an accomplishment of great significance For America.” Governor Arch Moore – Because of Interstate 77 and the tunnel “West Virginia can look to an ever increasing prosperity and well-being in the years ahead.” These two governors were officiating the ceremony, creating a mark in history, the seventh longest tunnel in the U.S.