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    Bridge on the Smart Road

The Virginia Smart Road is a unique, state-of-the-art, full-scale, closed test-bed research facility managed by VTTI and owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). The Smart Road continues to play an important role in the overall success of the Institute and its research endeavors. Transportation scientists and product developers have spent thousands of hours conducting research on this high-tech highway since its opening.

The Smart Road features weather-making capabilities (rain, snow, fog), a variable lighting test bed, pavement markings, an on-site data acquisition system (DAS), road weather information systems, a differential global positioning system (GPS), road access and surveillance, and a signalized intersection. 

The Smart Road will eventually become part of the public transportation system connecting Blacksburg, VA, to Interstate 81 (I-81). The timetable for extending the road to I-81 will depend on growing traffic demands on the Route 460 Bypass and state and federal transportation funding.

Smart Road Features and Operations

Smart Road features and operations include, but are not limited to:

  • A 2.2-mile, controlled-access test track built to interstate standards
  • Two paved lanes
  • Three bridges, including the Smart Road Bridge (the tallest state-maintained bridge in Virginia)
  • Full-time staff that coordinate all road activities
  • 24/7 access control and oversight
  • Centralized communications
  • Lighting and weather system controls
  • Safety assurance and surveillance
  • Fourteen pavement sections, including an open-grade friction course
  • In-pavement sensors (e.g., moisture, temperature, strain, vibration, weigh-in-motion)
  • Zero-crown pavement section designed for flooded pavement testing
  • An American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)-designated surface friction testing facility
  • Seventy-five weather-making towers accessible on crowned and zero-crown pavement sections
  • Artificial snow production of up to four inches per hour (based on suitable weather conditions)
  • Production of differing intensities of rain with varying droplet sizes
  • Fog production
  • Two weather stations with official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather available within one mile
  • Variable pole spacing designed to replicate 95 percent of national highway systems
  • Multiple luminaire heads, including light-emitting diode (LED) modules
  • A wireless mesh network variable control (i.e., luminaire dimming)
  • A high-bandwidth fiber network
  • A differential GPS base station
  • Complete signal phase and timing (SPaT) using remote controls
  • Wide shoulders for safe maneuvering during experimental testing

Control Room

    Smart Road Control Room

VTTI houses the Smart Road Control Room through which on-road research is scheduled and overseen.

Dispatchers monitor the Smart Road from a computer-equipped control center that is staffed 24/7. Researchers can directly and indirectly observe highway traffic and driver performance using surveillance cameras available in the control room. Engineers can also control the lighting and the weather on the Smart Road.

511 Virginia

VTTI serves as the primary Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) agency for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) 511 Virginia system. The 511 system is designed for travelers and delivers information about events that may affect traffic (e.g., crashes, congestion, road work and weather-related road conditions).

QA/QC services provided by VTTI include, but are not limited to:

  • Reviewing entries within the VDOT VaTraffic incident management system.
  • Monitoring 511 public services to ensure that VaTraffic information is delivered to the public in an accurate and timely manner.

These 511 public services include:

  • The 511 website, which provides information about the conditions of most roads in Virginia;
  • The 511 interactive voice response phone system (dial 511), which includes information for approximately 400 Virginia roads (all interstate roads and most primary roads);
  • The VA511 Alert emails, available free to the public via subscription; and 
  • Dynamic message boards at nine welcome centers across Virginia.

The 511 and VaTraffic systems are monitored 24/7, 365 days per year from the VTTI Smart Road Control Room.