Mining to cause traffic delays on I-70 for 19 years

Interstate 70 will be backed-up for a while.

Tunnel Ridge LLC., a branch of Alliance Resource Partners, LP., is set to longwall mine beneath I-70 a total of ten times for the next 19 years.

Joseph Szczur, executive director of PennDot, published a  news release explaining the mining is between the Claysville Interchange in Washington County and around 1000 feet across the border of the  West Virginia panhandle. Traffic speed will be reduced to 45 mph with the highway becoming single lane both ways. PennDot placed the restrictions Jan. 14 in between the West Virginia State Line and Exit 1.  

Due to damages that could be sustained by the highway during the process of mining, the news release said many precautions are placed and will be upheld. Tunnel Ridge will provide constant feedback on the condition and safety of the mine. A scanner tool called 3-D LiDAR will scan ahead to see if drilling in a certain direction will harm the surface above. Meters to test ground movement will also be placed as precautionary measures. An inspector will monitor the highway to make sure damage sustained to I-70 is repaired and recorded.

If repairs are needed, the County Maintenance Forces will fix the highway, according to Szczur’s news release.

Some citizens are concerned about how they will be affected by the mining, but Veronica Coptis, executive director for the Center for Coalfield Justice, said the highway traffic is not the only worry citizens have.

In 2005, Duke Lake in Ryerson State Park closed from public use, because mining had made the dam in the lake unsafe. Users of nearby Dutch Fork Lake, Coptis said, are afraid the lake will become unusable, like Duke Lake did, expecting that “Tunnel Ridge Mine will expand under Dutch Fork Lake.”

PennDot and Tunnel Ridge LLC were unable to comment on the possible effects of the project on the area’s lakes.

The news release stated the previous longwall mine operation under a highway occurred under I-79, starting in the summer of 1982 and lasting 27 years till 2009.