NORTON — The surface mine highwall at the intersection of U.S. Route 23 and Alternate Route 58 has been a Norton landmark for four decades.
On Wednesday, contractors took the first step to dismantle that landmark.
At 1:40 p.m., dust enveloped the highwall as debris and boulders rolled away from it — the first of several blasts expected through November as contractors begin the first stage of Project Intersection.
“There was no noise,” Norton City Manager Fred Ramey said just after the blast. “I felt a bit of the concussion and that was it.”
Ramey said Wednesday’s blast — originally set for 2 p.m. — was moved ahead 20 minutes to avoid traffic problems with nearby schools. Traffic stopped at the closest traffic stop at the intersection of Alternate 58 and nearby Trent Street was moving within five minutes of the blast.
The Lonesome Pine Regional Industrial Facilities Authority — a joint venture of Wise, Lee, Scott and Dickenson counties and the city of Norton — began Project Intersection about two years ago to develop former surface mine land at the two highways’ junction into a series of developed industrial sites with road access, utilities and broadband access.
Motorists can expect blasting at the highwall site thorough Nov. 6. The traffic safety plan includes control points at U.S. 23 at the John I. Burton/State Road 619 exit, the U.S. 23 Esserville traffic signal intersection near Walmart, the Alternate Route 58/ Trent Street intersection at Hardee’s and Valero and the Park Avenue/U.S. Business 23 traffic signal.
“Blasting Ahead” signs, signal lights, work vehicles and other signage will be visible at all four traffic control points.
Each blasting session should start around 2 p.m. each workday, causing an approximately 5-10-minute traffic stop. Blasting could occur at other times between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. if needed.