Transportation Institute to offer free tours of the Smart Road

BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 27, 2004 – The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) will hold its annual fall open house from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2004.

Members of the community are invited to tour the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Smart Road to get a first-hand look at the road’s technology and VTTI’s cutting-edge transportation research. Guests will see a short video overview of the Smart Road and will receive souvenirs. Blacksburg Transit will provide bus rides on the Smart Road, and there will be no charge for the tours.

"We think it’s important for the public to see how the Smart Road is helping us solve transportation problems, such as improving night visibility for drivers, alerting drivers of roadway hazards, designing more durable pavements that are less costly to maintain, and enhancing visibility in crosswalks to reduce pedestrian fatalities," said VTTI’s Operations Director Cindy Wilkinson.

Visitors will have the opportunity to survey the Smart Road from the state-of-the-art control room where researchers will demonstrate how information from the Smart Road is monitored and collected. Researchers will highlight weather generation equipment, lighting and power controls and the roadway surveillance system.

The Smart Road’s weather-making capabilities will be demonstrated as well. Buses will be sprayed with rain from testing towers. These testing towers allow researchers to produce up to 2.5 inches of rain per hour, as well as up to 12 inches of snow per hour given the correct atmospheric conditions. Researchers also can create a fog-like mist that reduces visibility to as little as 3 feet, however this capability will not be demonstrated during the tours.

David Clarke, VDOT’s resident engineer at VTTI said, "the Smart Road is a nationally and even internationally known research facility right here in our backyard. There was a lot of public debate and input during the design of the Smart Road, so we feel that it’s important to keep the public informed and aware of the valuable research taking place here."

Currently, the Smart Road is a 2.2 mile, two-lane road used specifically as a research facility. When all six miles are completed, the Smart Road will connect Blacksburg and Interstate 81, with the first two miles continuing to operate as a controlled test facility.

For more information about the upcoming tours, please contact VTTI Events Coordinator Lisa Young at (540) 231-1548 or

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become among the largest universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech’s eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research, and outreach activities and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.