Day: February 28, 2004

We emerged from the Big

We emerged from the Big Walker Mountain tunnel on I-77 to see the “Welcome to Virginia” sign and let out a whoop.

It took eight years and too many deaths of construction workers to build the both the Big Walker and East River Mountain tunnels — keys to opening the stretch of I-77 from Wytheville to Bluefield and Princeton, West Virginia.

Big Walker Mountain is part of the Jefferson National Forest, which meant no highway through the land. In 1930, a farmer plowing his field unearthed an Indian burial ground, putting that land off limits. Tunnels became the only option.