Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the correct amount - $46.7 million – of the project cost.  

A new gateway to the south end of Virginia Tech’s campus is expected to open Thursday.

A grade-separated, diverging diamond interchange at the intersection of U.S. 460 and Southgate Drive debuted during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday afternoon with representatives from Virginia Tech, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and the town of Blacksburg.

VDOT’s $46.7 million interchange project creates a new Southgate Drive entrance, which leads vehicles to a roundabout on Duck Pond Drive. Beyond the roundabout, the road heads directly to the university’s athletics facilities, including Lane Stadium and English Field at Union Park, the baseball stadium.

Southgate Drive from the new traffic circle to U.S. 460 is closed permanently.

A feature of the new entrance is a bridge built over U.S. 460 and made of concrete stained to replicate Hokie Stone.

The new interchange will improve safety for the Virginia Tech community and all who use the U.S. 460 corridor, said President Tim Sands during Wednesday’s ceremony.

“We are opening a beautiful new entrance to our campus, one that we can all be proud of,” he said. “Its value to Virginia Tech goes far beyond its beauty. It will give us better access to this growing infrastructure that supports our vision for the university.”

President Tim Sands at ribbon cutting
Tim Sands, president of Virginia Tech, addresses the audience Wednesday afternoon at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Southgate/460 interchange.

This new interchange features a diverging diamond traffic pattern, known for helping to reduce congestion by moving traffic quickly through an area. It directs traffic to the left side of the road, while requiring vehicles to drive briefly on the opposite side of the road.

Learn more about maneuvering a diverging diamond intersection. http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/salem/southgate_connector_-_blacksburg.asp

Diverging diamond interchanges are becoming more common in Virginia as ways to improve roadways, said Charles Kilpatrick, commissioner of VDOT.

“I know that the students, faculty, and people of Blacksburg will get used to this very quickly,” he said.

After Wednesday’s ribbon cutting, an autonomous vehicle from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and a special Blacksburg Transit bus displaying a “Wear the Tradition” wrapped advertisement for Virginia Tech class rings traveled the interchange route.

With the project, Research Center Drive will be shifted, a move that will allow room to extend the Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport runway.

Photos by Ray Meese

Video by Olivia Coleman

Written by Jenny Kincaid Boone

Autonomous vehicle at interchange opening
An autonomous vehicle from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute passes through the Southgate/460 interchange Wednesday afternoon as part of a ribbon-cutting ceremony.