The first phase of the restoration and eventual reopening of the Blue Ridge Tunnel in Afton, Va. is expected to begin this fall after an appropriation from the state.          

A $749,149 award from the Commonwealth Transportation Board will allow the start of construction of a parking lot near Afton Depot. Phase 1 also will include installation of a drainage system and creation of a roughly 3,400-foot walking trail from Afton Depot to the east entrance of the tunnel, along the railroad bed.          

Allen Hale is president of the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel Foundation, a public-private agency involved in the project.

He says the tunnel is historic because at 4,264 feet, it was the longest in North America when it was completed in 1858.