Construction will close portions of Cumberland Gap Tunnel

By Kendall Downing | 

For those in the Cumberland Valley traffic delays may become the norm in the new year. The state of Kentucky will begin work in January to repair water damage in the Cumberland Gap Tunnel.

Folks like Hugh Helton use the Cumberland Gap Tunnel almost every day.

"I'm going to say three or four times a week, sometimes five," said Helton.

The news of upcoming repairs is met with some frustration.

"Problems. It's going to be a lot of problems," said Helton.

"It's a similar repair we did three years ago back in 2007," said Robert Perkins, with the Kentucky Department of Highways.

Work is slated to begin on the tunnel in January of the new year. There are six areas under the pavement where leaky water is causing problems.

"It's very acidic in nature, and it's eating up the limestone rock that's in there," said Perkins.

Officials hope replacing that rock will fix the issue.

"Refill it with granite - which will not be as susceptible to deterioration like the limestone," said Perkins.

Repairs are expected to last until May. While they are going on, only one side of the tunnel will be open.

"We will alternate back and forth as needed," said Perkins.

Hopefully for folks like Helton, it will not stand in the way.

"I hope they get it fixed permanently where it does not have to be shut down again," said Helton.

Department of Highways officials said despite the work, they plan to have both the northbound and southbound lanes of the tunnel open for two high traffic weekends in the new year.

One is Easter, the other is Bristol race weekend.

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