|West Virginia's Memorial Tunnel, located near Standard, WV (about 28 miles southeast of Charleston, WV) opened November 8, 1954 as part of the West Virginia turnpike, a two-lane tunnel that connected the 88 miles between Princeton and Charleston, West Virginia. The 2800-foot, two-lane tunnel construction required the movement of 30 million cubic yards of earth. It was the first tunnel in the nation to be monitored by television.
In 1987, the tunnel was bypassed by an "open cut" that displaced earth from a 371 foot cut in the mountain to a 311 foot deep fill in the adjacent valley (and replaced the Sergeant Stanley Bender bridge, named for a West Virginia Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, that had projected from the south entrance to the tunnel). This cut moved 10 million cubic yards of earth, and yielded about 300,000 tons of coal from the mountain. The turnpike tunnel was closed and Interstate 64/77 now runs adjacent to the tunnel.
Since being bypassed, the tunnel has become an unusual testing and training facility. From 1990 to 1997, the Federal Highway Administration extensively modified the tunnel and conducted the Memorial Tunnel Fire Ventilation Test Program. From 1993-1995, fires were set in the tunnel to test ventilation designs for Boston's Central Artery/Tunnel project. In 1997 the tunnel became a storage site for the West Virginia Turnpike.
In 1997 Major General Allen E. Tackett, Adjutant General of West Virginia envisioned turning this abandoned highway tunnel into a range for military and civilian first responders to train. The U.S. Congress, recognizing the need for additional WMD training, required the Department of Defense to "Establish a cost-effective CM/CT facility for military first responders and concurrent testing of response apparatus and equipment at the Memorial Tunnel facility". In 1999, the Department of Defense Consequence Management Program Integration Office initiated planning and development of a training center in the more than 79,000 square feet of the two-lane, 2,800-foot-long highway tunnel to train local, state, federal, and military response units.
In May 2000, a 5-phase project began to convert the Memorial Tunnel into the Center for National Response (CNR), an exercise facility for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Consequence Management (CM) and Counterterrorism (CT). Sets were constructed within the tunnel, including a post-blast rubble area, a subway station, illicit drug laboratories, a confined space training area, and a highway incident scene.
Today, the WV Memorial Tunnel Complex is open to the public. It is ideal for consequence and crisis management emergency response training and provides a realistic environment where emergency response teams can readily practice techniques designed to mitigate the effects of a WMD incident in an underground highway, train, or subway tunnel. Additionally, the tunnel provides an excellent base for training on HAZMAT response; simulated agent testing; illicit chemical, biological, or drug laboratory entry and containment; EOD operations; underground search and rescue; counter terrorist tactics; and hostage rescue.