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Author Topic: Smart Road extension to I-81  (Read 1028 times)

Alps

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Smart Road extension to I-81
« on: July 26, 2018, 01:31:37 PM »

https://www.roanoke.com/smart-road-expansion-to-i--moves-ahead/article_b1484632-7a94-523f-89bf-489cbbcb8b03.html

Thoughts - Right now, according to aerials, Smart Road doesn't even connect to US 460 - there are ghost ramps. I guess that if they construct it out to I-81 they'll complete it? But then the much bigger thought is, right now this is a controlled test track with different pavement scenarios and technologies. What happens when this becomes a through highway open to the public? You can't test a zero-crown flooded pavement section under traffic, for example.

Jmiles32

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Re: Smart Road extension to I-81
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2018, 02:41:01 PM »

Is the Smart Road from US-460 to I-81 planned to be 2 or 4 lanes? Regardless, the article makes it clear that it is very unlikely the extension will receive any state funding this go around. I don't think VT has to worry about making the existing portion available to the public for at least another 5-10 years.
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hbelkins

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Re: Smart Road extension to I-81
« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2018, 03:22:07 PM »

https://www.roanoke.com/smart-road-expansion-to-i--moves-ahead/article_b1484632-7a94-523f-89bf-489cbbcb8b03.html

Thoughts - Right now, according to aerials, Smart Road doesn't even connect to US 460 - there are ghost ramps. I guess that if they construct it out to I-81 they'll complete it? But then the much bigger thought is, right now this is a controlled test track with different pavement scenarios and technologies. What happens when this becomes a through highway open to the public? You can't test a zero-crown flooded pavement section under traffic, for example.

I'd have to go back and look and see if I got pictures the last time I was through there, but I do remember the last signage updates to that exit including references to the Smart Road. I was traveling west on 460 and I can't really remember what the eastbound signage says.
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VTGoose

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Re: Smart Road extension to I-81
« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2018, 03:29:23 PM »

https://www.roanoke.com/smart-road-expansion-to-i--moves-ahead/article_b1484632-7a94-523f-89bf-489cbbcb8b03.html

Thoughts - Right now, according to aerials, Smart Road doesn't even connect to US 460 - there are ghost ramps. I guess that if they construct it out to I-81 they'll complete it? But then the much bigger thought is, right now this is a controlled test track with different pavement scenarios and technologies. What happens when this becomes a through highway open to the public? You can't test a zero-crown flooded pavement section under traffic, for example.

There are better things to spend the money on in the area, like adding a third lane to I-81 northbound from Christiansburg to Ironto (and beyond). It is interesting that the same argument is still being trotted out about needing the Smart Road to provide a more-direct connection from Blacksburg to Roanoke, especially since the road that was actually built is far from being over taxed with traffic. In the scheme of things, extending the Smart Road to a new I-81 exit 3 miles further north won't make much difference.

As to the research, there is a four-lane right of way with only two lanes being used right now.
Quote
As it stands, the Smart Road is a closed-off 2.2-mile test track operated by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to test vehicles under different conditions. If the project were to get approved, the test center could stay in tact.

"If you open it as a two-lane facility, you could bypass part of the smart road that's being used now for research and testing," Brugh (NRV Metropolitan Planning Organization Executive Director Dan Brugh) said.

See http://www.wdbj7.com/content/news/Smart-Road-extension-to-I-81-could-become-489066741.html

There are lots of ramps and connections to both U.S. 460 and S. Main Street (U.S. 460 Business), which made the "connect the bypasses" project so much more expensive and complicated. The overpasses are complete and ramps were fully paved when all the construction was done (and it wasn't the greatest construction job -- the ground has settled unevenly so it is like driving on a roller coasters; there were some approaches to bridges that had major repaving done because of settling behind the abutments). Ramps are set up for traffic to head east from Blacksburg or get off the Smart Road and head west on the bypass or head to Main St.

Bruce in Blacksburg


 
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VTGoose

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Re: Smart Road extension to I-81
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2018, 03:34:08 PM »

I'd have to go back and look and see if I got pictures the last time I was through there, but I do remember the last signage updates to that exit including references to the Smart Road. I was traveling west on 460 and I can't really remember what the eastbound signage says.

There is mention of the Smart Road on signs when heading westbound (from I-81) mainly to guide people to the VTTI research center. There are no signs about the Smart Road when heading east.
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hbelkins

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Re: Smart Road extension to I-81
« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2018, 02:38:21 PM »

I thought the Smart Road extension was going to extend more in an easterly direction and connect to I-81 closer to Roanoke. If it's going to intersect I-81 only about three miles from the existing US 460 interchange, what's the use?
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VTGoose

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Re: Smart Road extension to I-81
« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2018, 01:00:47 PM »

I thought the Smart Road extension was going to extend more in an easterly direction and connect to I-81 closer to Roanoke. If it's going to intersect I-81 only about three miles from the existing US 460 interchange, what's the use?

Getting from Blacksburg to I-81 has been a problem for years and multiple band-aids were applied. As businesses grew along U.S. 460 and more traffic lights were installed it took longer to make that short trip over to exit 118 on I-81. A bottleneck was the left turn on to the north end of the Christiansburg bypass. The fix to that was to increase from one to two turn lanes, then add a traffic light there. There was also a problem at the south end, at the traffic light at Roanoke Road (there was an embankment on the south side of Roanoke Street that would have carried traffic over the street and down a ramp; the bridge was never built to complete that route). When the problem finally got to the point of needing a major solution, a multitude of routes were studied. There were a couple of routes that would have run down the Ellett Valley and hit I-81 in the vicinity of the Ironto exit and the current route of the Smart Road that would hit not to far north of exit 118. The ultimate solution picked by the CTB was the "connect the bypasses" plan with an extension to I-81. But a number of people intervened to push for the Smart Road, propping up their plans with the "when the new road becomes inadequate, the Smart Road can be extended to I-81 as an alternative route" and tagging that route as the ideal part of I-73 when it came to town.

Had money and environment been no hindrance, the best routing would have been alternative 10 or 7, which would have run from the then-south-end of the Blacksburg bypass to I-81 at or near the Ironto exit. This would allow Blackburg (and beyond) traffic to avoid the mess that is I-81 up and down Christiansburg Mountain (location of many "wreck a day" incidents).

In the scheme of things, extending the Smart Road really isn't in the best interest of anyone except the contractors who win the bids. The region (and beyond) would be better served by adding a third lane to I-81 between exit 188 north to the Ironto exit (128). This may not reduce the number of wrecks in that section, but it could make it easier to get around them when lanes are blocked.

There is a good review of the history and study of the alternatives in the "Blacksburg/Roanoke Connector, 460 Bypass to I-81, Montgomery County: Environmental Impact Statement" found at https://books.google.com/books?id=1YM2AQAAMAAJ&lpg=PR16&ots=lcOZcpjB-b&dq=VDOT%20U.S.%20460%20Blacksburg%201988&pg=SL265-PA12-IA6#v=onepage&q=VDOT%20U.S.%20460%20Blacksburg%201988&f=false or https://goo.gl/EkPQiT

Bruce in Blacksburg

 
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cpzilliacus

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Re: Smart Road extension to I-81
« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2018, 03:34:12 PM »

The region (and beyond) would be better served by adding a third lane to I-81 between exit 188 north to the Ironto exit (128).

I disagree.  Not because I dispute your assertion that adding capacity to I-81 is a bad idea, because it's not - it's a great idea.

But I-81 capacity issues are (or should be) funded by taxes that are either across the entire corridor from Bristol to Frederick County, or by statewide funding sources or by tolls.

See more discussion in the I-81 in Virginia thread.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2018, 03:38:58 PM by cpzilliacus »
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Beltway

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Re: Smart Road extension to I-81
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2018, 12:23:56 AM »

https://www.enr.com/articles/44929-virginia-smart-road-extension-is-a-wise-move-local-officials-say

Virginia Smart Road Extension Is a Wise Move, Local Officials Say
July 30, 2018
Jim Parsons

Montgomery County, Va., officials have crafted a proposal to extend the Virginia Smart Road to I-81, creating a new highway link to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

The $215-million plan, which now goes before Virginia's Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) for consideration, would more than double the length of the existing 2.2-mile two-lane highway, fulfilling the Virginia Dept. of Transportation's original vision to combine transportation research with improved highway access to the university and fast-growing surrounding area. Currently, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute manages and maintains the Smart Road as a transportation technology test track.

According to the proposal, adding 3.5 miles of roadway, four bridges, and a new interchange at I-81 would reduce the current 40-minute drive between Roanoke and Blacksburg by nearly one-third. Although VDOT has implemented several corridor capacity upgrade projects in recent years, local officials believe projected increases in traffic volume justify the addition of a direct route.

Should the proposal receive CTB approval, the Smart Road extension would become part of Virginia's six-year transportation improvement program, with construction getting underway by 2024.
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Scott M. Savage
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VTGoose

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Re: Smart Road extension to I-81
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2018, 11:00:05 AM »

https://www.enr.com/articles/44929-virginia-smart-road-extension-is-a-wise-move-local-officials-say

 would reduce the current 40-minute drive between Roanoke and Blacksburg by nearly one-third.

A whole 12 minutes! I have no idea what I would do with that extra time should this come to fruition.

In the scheme of things, I can be from my house to the location on I-81 where this interchange is proposed in 14 minutes. As a for-instance, it is another 25 minutes from that point to the Roanoke Airport -- a typical 40-minute trip when I-81 is behaving. If the Smart Road is extended, that allegedly drops my trip time to 28 minutes. But it really won't matter how fast I get to I-81 if the wreck-of-the-day has traffic stopped at mile marker 127 and the back-up extends for 6 miles. If I know about the incident, I can avoid the Smart Road, take U.S. 460 as usual and continue down U.S. 460/11 to Dixie Caverans and avoid the back-up but extend my trip time.

Again, it would be better for the region (as discussed in the I-81 thread) if the interstate was improved to increase the capacity of I-81 to better handle peak traffic loads and add anther lane that could allow traffic to get around a wreck. That is worth a whole lot more than a 12-minute saving in drive time.

Bruce in Blacksburg
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Beltway

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Re: Smart Road extension to I-81
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2018, 02:20:20 PM »

It appears to me that the completed highway would save about 4 miles Blacksburg-Roanoke --
http://www.roadstothefuture.com/Smart-Road-Map.gif

That would save about 4 minutes, not 13 minutes, or 10% and not 1/3.

The scale on that map overestimates the mileage, as the whole Blacksburg-Roanoke Connector is 5.7 miles.

« Last Edit: July 31, 2018, 02:23:17 PM by Beltway »
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Scott M. Savage
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