The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) will hold its annual fall open house Thursday, Sept. 22 from 4 to 8 p.m. VTTI is located at 3500 Transportation Research Plaza in the Industrial Park in Blacksburg and the event is free and open to the public.

The community is invited to tour the Virginia Smart Road to get a first-hand look at the road’s technology as well as the transportation institute’s cutting-edge transportation research. Guests will see a short overview of the Smart Road, get a chance to see the road’s high-tech control room and will receive souvenirs. Blacksburg Transit will provide bus rides on the Smart Road.

“The public open house is a great opportunity for the community to learn about transportation research projects that result in improved highway safety, reduced traffic congestion, and better roadway designs,” said Cindy Wilkinson, operations director at VTTI.

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.

Buses will be sprayed with rain from testing towers as the Smart Road’s weather-making capabilities are demonstrated. These testing towers allow researchers to produce up to 2.5 inches of rain per hour. The towers are also capable of producing up to four inches of snow per hour given the correct atmospheric conditions and researchers can also create a fog-like mist that reduces visibility to as little as three feet.

David Clarke, Virginia Department of Transportation’s resident engineer at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, is looking forward to the event. “VDOT and VTTI really enjoy being able to let the public come in and see what kind of research is going on. People have heard for years about the Smart Road and we have always been as open as we can about the research. The open house is one way we can show people just how important this facility is,” said Clarke.

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.

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