Memorial Tunnel

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Memorial Tunnel
Memorial Tunnel at night on the West Virginia Turnpike (88732).jpg
LocationStandard, West Virginia, United States
Coordinates38°07′58″N 81°24′54″W / 38.132852°N 81.414957°W / 38.132852; -81.414957Coordinates: 38°07′58″N 81°24′54″W / 38.132852°N 81.414957°W / 38.132852; -81.414957
Work begun1952
OpenedNovember 8, 1954
ClosedJuly 7, 1987
OwnerState of West Virginia
OperatorWV Parkways Authority
Length2,802 feet (854 m)

The Memorial Tunnel is a 2,802 feet (854 m) two-lane vehicular tunnel that formerly carried the West Virginia Turnpike through/under Paint Creek Mountain in Standard, West Virginia in Kanawha County.[1] Closed to interstate traffic since 1987, the tunnel serves as the Center for National Response for military first responders to train for various situations that may arise in such a location without alarming the general public.[1]


Construction of the Memorial Tunnel commenced in 1952,[2] and it officially opened to West Virginia Turnpike traffic on November 8, 1954,[1] at a final cost of $5 million.[3] Its construction required the movement of 91,000 cubic yards (70,000 m3) of earth, and it was the first tunnel in the nation to have closed-circuit television monitoring. At the time, the West Virginia Turnpike was referred to as "88 miles of miracle."

Turnpike upgrades[edit]

The turnpike became heavily used, and by 1976, upgrades to the Turnpike from two-lanes to four-lanes had commenced; by 1983 all but the Memorial Tunnel had been completed.[2] The remaining tunnel created a bottleneck–the 4-lane, divided highway turnpike had to merge into the two-lane, two-way traffic configuration of the tunnel, which also had a lower speed limit. This resulted in traffic backups during periods of increased traffic, such as holiday travel seasons.


Instead of upgrading and expanding the tunnel, a 1.72 miles (2.77 km) bypass was constructed going around both the tunnel and the Bender Bridge over Paint Creek.[2] Costing $35 million to complete, 10 million cubic yards (7,600,000 m3) of earth were removed in addition to 300,000 tons of coal being removed from the mountain.[2] The last vehicle would pass through the tunnel on July 7, 1987, and it would subsequently close to vehicular through traffic.[3]

Alternate use[edit]

Between 1992 and 1995, the Department of Transportation entered a deal with the state to utilize the abandoned tunnel for smoke, fire and ventilation experiments.[4] These experiments were carried out to design better developed ventilation systems for the tunnels being constructed as part of the Big Dig in Boston; the results of the tests were also incorporated into the design of the Channel Tunnel.[5] These experiments also resulted in the Federal Highway Administration allowing jet fans for ventilation in tunnel construction, which was a significant change to their original ventilation designs.[4] The lasting legacy of the Memorial Tunnel Fire Test Program is in both changes in ceilings materials used in tunnel construction as well in the approved use of jet fans for ventilation during construction.[6]

By 2000, the tunnel had been selected as the location where the Center for National Response would conduct anti-terrorism training exercises.[5] The facilities offered in the center included:

  • A rubble area to simulate collapsed buildings[7]
  • An emergency egress trainer[7]
  • A subway station, complete with 800 feet (240 m) of track and two subway cars from Boston's Green Line[7]
  • A drug enforcement section[7]
  • A highway tunnel section, complete with a New York City Transit Authority bus, firetrucks, a tractor-trailer and other vehicles[7]
  • A 50-car pileup wreck complete with hazardous materials

Groups from around the country sent personnel to West Virginia to train in the facility. In all, about 160,000 first responders have been trained by West Virginians.

After 20 years of operating as the Center for National Response, the West Virginia National Guard announced in February, 2022 that the tunnel would be converted to a mushroom farm operated by Hernshaw Farms.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Center for National Response. "Tunnel History". Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2008-02-20.
  2. ^ a b c d Monday, Christopher R. "The West Virginia Turnpike: "88 miles of miracle"". West Virginia Historical Society Quarterly. Archived from the original on February 12, 2005. Retrieved February 21, 2008.
  3. ^ a b "Snapshots of the 20th century". The Charleston Gazette. May 14, 1999. p. 15A.
  4. ^ a b Williams, Susan (April 9, 1998). "Tunnel vision: Fiery, one-of-a-kind experiments saved designers $20 million". The Charleston Gazette. p. 1C.
  5. ^ a b Lily, Roger (December 18, 2000). "T 'Terrorism' on the Turnpike: Officers train for worst-case scenarios in closed Memorial Tunnel". The Charleston Gazette. p. 1A.
  6. ^ Sergiu F. Luchian. "Memorial Tunnel Fire Test Program" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-02-20.
  7. ^ a b c d e Steelhammer, Rick (January 19, 2002). "A smashing success: Turnpike tunnel still has value Disaster training site's popularity explodes globally". The Charleston Gazette. p. 1A.
  8. ^ "Memorial Tunnel in West Virginia will soon be used to grow mushrooms". WOWK 13 News. 2022-02-16. Retrieved 2022-02-16.

External links[edit]