Expect Lane Closures as Longwall Mining Under Interstate 70 Resumes
By Scott McCloskey
February 13, 2021 - Motorists over the coming weeks can expect to see a section of I-70 narrowed to one lane in both directions near the West Virginia Welcome Cener in Ohio County as Tunnel Ridge Mine will be performing longwall mining in that area once again, according to West Virginia Division of Highways officials.
A section of I-70 will be restricted to one lane in both directions between milepost 13 and the West Virginia/Pennsylvania State Line beginning early next week through Monday, March 8, to allow for monitoring of the interstate while another longwall pass is made by Tunnel Ridge, according to West Virginia Division of Highways Area Engineer Mike Witherow.
The West Virginia Welcome Center along I-70 remains closed as officials continue to monitor the facility and surrounding property.
Photo: Scott McCloskey
Drivers should be alert for changing traffic patterns and expect delays. In addition, the speed limit in that area will fall to 45 miles per hour. Highway crews were seen placing speed limit signs and other traffic control signs along the highway over the past few days.
“They will start under the roadway embankment there early next week,” Witherow said.
He added that they expect the monitoring period to be a little shorter this time around, as the longwall coal panel will be approaching the highway at “more of a right angle,” cutting down the actual time it will be moving below the highway.
“It will be more straight-on this time, so it will kind of minimize it (the time), ” Witherow said.
He also said it is possible both sides of the highway may be kept to one lane while they wait to repave that section of highway in warmer weather.
“We may or may not be able to open it back to two lanes before we come back to do the paving; it just depends on the conditions,” he added. “We may have to maintain it with a single lane until April.”
Witherow said the DOH also decided to close the pull-off area at the Welcome Center during the winter months as they continue to monitor that area. The welcome center building was closed in mid-April last year as The Hughes Corporation of Sycamore, Pennsylvania, began mitigation work on the center to minimize structural damage to the building during the mining process.
Drivers encountered long delays on the interstate near the West Virginia Welcome Center last summer and on two separate occasions in 2019 as a result of the longwall mining operations. According to Witherow, the coal company has several more longwall panels scheduled to move beneath the highway in the area between the welcome center and the Dallas Pike exit over the next few years.