The mission of the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation is the restoration and preservation of the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel as a valuable historical asset and recreational destination for both Nelson and Augusta counties in Virginia. The tunnel project will incorporate a trailway through the restored tunnel, accessible from both sides by trail hikers, walkers and bicyclists, linking to existing trail systems.
Constructed between 1850 and 1858, the Blue Ridge Tunnel project was led by the brilliant French Engineer Claudius Crozet (1789-1864). The tunnel was a major engineering feat, employing mostly Irish laborers and African-American slaves simultaneously excavating the tunnel from each end using only hand drills and black powder for a distance of nearly 1 mile (4,273 linear ft.) It was the longest tunnel in America at the time of its completion, and allowed safe Westward expansion from the Eastern part of the United States.
The Blue Ridge Tunnel is located in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains at Rockfish Gap. The eastern entrance is in Afton, in Nelson County, and the western entrance is in Augusta County near Waynesboro. (near Interstate 64, Route 250, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive and the Appalachian Trail.)
With funding from Federal transportation enhancement funds and state grants, a restoration of the tunnel will be undertaken, and parking areas and trails through property easements on each side will be created for public access, with connections to existing trail networks.
The project provides a greenway for trail hikers, walkers and bicyclists while preserving the Blue Ridge Tunnel’s designation in 1976 as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark . It is a valuable attraction for both Nelson and Augusta counties and a tribute to the importance of the railway system in the United States.
The implementation phase is now underway for Phase I of the Blue Ridge Tunnel Project. Nelson County officials have selected and awarded the contract for Phase I of the rehabilitation and trail project to Fielder’s Choice Enterprises, Inc. of Charlottesville, Virginia. Phase I construction encompasses the parking area and trailhead near the old Afton Depot and the construction of a pedestrian and bicycle trail along the original rail bed for approximately 3400 feet to the East Portal of the 1850’s tunnel.
Work began October, 2014 and is currently in progress. The $749,149 award from the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Commonwealth Transportation Board through the “Transportation Alternatives” competitive grant program is providing funding for Phase I construction.
Funding for Phase II has also been awarded and the procurement process for that project is underway. Since 2001, the County of Nelson has worked with federal, state and local partners to secure funding and support for the project.
Allen Hale, Nelson County Board of Supervisor member and President of the Crozet Tunnel Foundation says, “I am thrilled to anticipate the beginning of construction on the Blue Ridge Tunnel Trail after so many years of effort and planning. Nelson County is appreciative of the continuing financial support of the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation, our local government partners in the region, and individuals on both sides of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And, I especially want to recognize the hard work and persistence of the staff of Nelson County in overcoming the many hurdles along the way to bring this project to fruition.”
Access to the Blue Ridge Tunnel Is Prohibited During Construction
Phase 1 of the Blue Ridge Tunnel Project is in progress. For the purposes of ensuring safety and eliminating liability, there is currently no public access to either the west portal or east portal (including no access into the Blue Ridge Tunnel itself) during the reconstruction phases of the tunnel. The construction zone is restricted to Authorized Personnel only.
No Trespassing signs have been posted in the Phase 1 construction zone and have also been posted in the overall Blue Ridge Tunnel Project area, including Nelson and Augusta counties.
Violators are subject to prosecution.
Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation, P.O. Box 336, Lovingston, VA 22949 434-263-7000
The Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation is a 501(c)(3) foundation, and tax deductible contributions are gladly accepted.
For more information about the Tunnel, check out the website at www.blueridgetunnel.org