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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2004 / 04 

Virginia Tech invites the public to VTTI open house to view Smart Road research

April 9, 2004

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) will hold its annual spring open house from 5 to 9 p.m. April 28, 2004. Members of the community are invited to tour the Virginia Department of Transportation's (VDOT) Smart Road and to get a firsthand look at VTTI's cutting-edge transportation research.

"We think it's important for the public to see how the Smart Road is helping us solve transportation problems, like 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 Smart Road research is monitored and collected. Weather generation equipment, lighting and power controls, and the roadway surveillance-camera system also will be shown.

The Smart Road is a 2.2 mile, two-lane road used specifically as a research facility. When completed, it will be a six-mile connector highway between Blacksburg and Virginia's I-81 with the first two miles remaining as a controlled test facility.

Blacksburg Transit will provide rides on the Smart Road, giving visitors a close-up look at the road's technology. The evening tour will highlight VTTI's lighting research.

Lighting expert Dr. Ron Gibbons will exhibit his research on cross-walk lighting, giving visitors the chance to see how different lighting configurations affect a driver's visibility of pedestrians. Guests will observe pedestrians dressed in both light and dark clothing under several lighting conditions.

There also will be a demonstration of the Smart Road's weather-making capabilities during which the buses will drive through man-made fog and be sprayed with rain from testing towers. Researchers can produce up to 5 inches of rain per hour and as many as 10 inches of snow per hour given temperatures of 27 F or below, and a fog-like mist that can reduce visibility to as little as 3 feet.

Guests at VTTI's open house will watch a short video overview of the Smart Road and will receive souvenirs.

For more information about VTTI's spring open house, please contact Events Coordinator Lisa Young at 231-1548 or

Written by Cindy Wilkinson.