State-Line Squeeze Back on Interstate 70 as Longwall Mining Resumes
WHEELING — Motorists will see a section of Interstate 70 between Dallas Pike and the West Virginia/Pennsylvania State Line reduced to one lane in both directions once again over the coming months. The Tunnel Ridge coal company is scheduled to make another longwall pass beneath the highway in that area, according to West Virginia Division of Highways officials.
Beginning last week, a section of I-70 between milepost 12 — a mile east of the Dallas Pike exit — and the state line will be restricted to one lane through Dec. 20 to allow for preparations and monitoring of the highway surface as the coal company makes another longwall pass deep below the surface in that area.
Drivers should keep an eye out for changing traffic patterns and expect delays throughout the project. The speed limit has been reduced to 45 miles per hour through the work zone.
Kelly Paving has begun installing relief joints in the pavement, prior to the longwall panel moving through. DOH officials will carefully monitor the road surface and embankment for any possible cracks or subsidence once the longwall panel moves through the area.
The longwall panel is scheduled to move through the area beginning the last week of September, according to West Virginia Division of Highways Area Engineer Mike Witherow.
“We’ll take it down to one lane and do what we did before,” Witherow said, “and then when the longwall panel moves through we will be monitoring (the highway) the whole time they are underneath the embankment.”
He said they will keep that stretch of highway down to one lane for several weeks after the mining moves through so they can survey the area.
Witherow said while they hope to have all the work complete by Dec. 20, there are always unforeseen issues, including inclement weather conditions, which can delay the resurfacing work.
In addition to the road work, Witherow said plans are still being made by the DOH, in conjunction with the coal company, to make necessary repairs to the West Virginia Visitor Center near the state line. The center was closed in April 2020 for mitigation work on the center to minimize structural damage to the building during mining operations.
“We’re working with the mine on developing the plan for the repairs that are necessary to get that back open,” Witherow said. “So we are going through the review process to the welcome center at this point — making sure we do what we need to do to get it back into operation.”
He said they have not yet set a reopening date for the center.
Drivers encountered long delays on the I-70 near the 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 is expected to finish moving coal panels beneath I-70 on the West Virginia side of the state line within the next two years before it moves into Pennsylvania and continues east in the same general area.