Blue Ridge Tunnel

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One entrance of the Blue Ridge Tunnel

The Blue Ridge Tunnel is the longest of four railway tunnels built through the Blue Ridge Mountains by Claudius Crozet. Construction began in 1850 and was completed in 1858. [1]

A refurbished tunnel will to the public in 2020 after a three-phase project to stabilize it and to build parking on both sides. [2]


The tunnel is four-fifths of a mile (4,281 feet) long, and at the time it was constructed, was the longest in the world. The first rail traffic was April 13, 1858 and the tunnel ceased to carry traffic in 1944[3].

The tunnel exits in Nelson County and Waynesboro, and travels through Albemarle County. Nelson County took the lead on partnering with the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation on efforts to turn the unused facility into a public attraction.

The three jurisdictions have expressed interest in reopening the tunnel as part of a greenway system. Nelson County, the owner of the tunnel, applied for a $1 million transportation enhancement grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2010 to renovate the tunnel[4] The work will involve adding parking lots, walking trails and the removal of two bulkheads built in the 1950's when the tunnel was being considered for natural gas storage.

Phase 1 began in 2014 due to $749,149 in funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation's "Transportation Alternatives" grant. The second phase cost $3.7 million. The third phase cost $1.3 million and covered the western side of the tunnel. [2]


A brilliant French engineer Claudius Crozet was hired as the tunnel's chief engineer in 1849, a year before construction began. Much of the labor was performed by Irish settlers and African-American slaves. [1] A four-foot-long bit was drilled through the rock to make holes, which were then blasted open using black powder. They only had small hand drills to dig for a distance of nearly one mile[5]. A group called Clann Mhór is seeking to build a memorial to the workers and to add the tunnel to the National Register of Historic Places. [6] [7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Web. Crozet tunnel builders focus of program, Dustin Wooldridge, News Virginian, retrieved November 7, 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Web. Blue Ridge Tunnel almost complete, Erin Conway, News Article, Lynchburg News and Advance, December 24, 2019, retrieved December 26, 2019.
  3. Web. Ain't no mountain wide enough: To keep Crozet from tunneling a new attraction, Lynn Jo Jameson, The Hook, Better Publications LLC, November 21 2002, retrieved 25 Jan 2010.
  4. Davis, Megan E. "If Grant Comes Through, Blue Ridge Tunnel Would Benefit Outdoor Enthusiasts | Charlottesville Daily Progress." Charlottesville News, Sports, Business, Events and Jobs | Charlottesville Daily Progress. 9 Apr. 2010. Web. 12 Apr. 2010. <>.
  5. Web. [1]
  6. Web. Clann Mhór Seeks Memorial to Blue Ridge Tunnel Builders, Mike Marshall, Crozet Gazette, Crozet Gazette, May 6, 2011
  7. Web. Project underway to add Claudius Crozet’s Blue Ridge Tunnel to National Register of Historic Places, Marissa Hermanson, C-VILLE Weekly, Portico Publications, December 26, 2012, retrieved January 2, 2013.

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