The Cumberland Gap Tunnel opened to highway traffic on October 18, 1996. The tunnels are located in the Cumberland Mountains of the Appalachian Range, where the states of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia converge.
Pioneers such as Dr. Thomas Walker and Daniel Boone first discovered the “Wilderness Trail”, opening the western territory to settlers and pioneers. Cumberland Gap was known as the “Gateway to the West”. With the opening of the tunnel, the Cumberland Gap and the Wilderness Road were restored; and visitors are now able to gain the perspective of the early travelers. Modern technology has paved the way for restoration of the past.
The Cumberland Gap Tunnel uses a variety of technology to monitor, direct and respond to traffic. A control room operator watches several monitors in order to locate any potential problems which may arise outside or within the tunnels. The control room operator has direct contact with all employees and is able to control the variable message signs through the Vanguard Traffic Control System.
The tunnel is also equipped with a SCADA system (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System). SCADA monitors and controls the operation of ventilation fans, carbon monoxide gas monitors, smoke detectors and linear heat detectors, all located in the tunnel ceiling. SCADA alerts the control room operator of mechanical malfunctions within the buildings as well.
Operators are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All of the operators at the Cumberland Gap Tunnel are EMT certified and are able to respond to any emergency. Ambulances, Fire/Rescue trucks, and utility wreckers are located at each portal building.