Vecellio & Grogan Builds Phase One Of Nation’s First Hi-Tech “Smart Road” In Virginia

Don’t ask it to do algebra or write a term paper. But give the Smart Road an A+ when it comes to providing detailed information on highway pavement performance.

A joint project of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Virginia Tech’s Center for Transportation Research, the Smart Road is a short length of highway extending southeast from S.R. 460 in Blacksburg, VA. It is fitted with millions of dollars in research technology designed to gather data on a wide range of pavement design, highway maintenance, and vehicle performance issues.


ABOVE: A total of 5 million cu. yds. had to be moved on the project.

BELOW: Harold Willmeth, William Johnson, Paul Lilly and Robert Pauley enjoy the shade of a loader bucket during lunch break.

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Vecellio & Grogan recently completed phase one of the project, a 1.7-mile section built through some of Virginia’s roughest terrain. At one point, nearly 200 vertical feet of mountain had to be cut and sloped along a 2,300 linear-foot stretch. V&G moved a total of 5 million cubic yards of dirt and rock on the job.

Building the roadway itself was another challenge. The Smart Road is a deliberate hodge-podge of pavement designs, including 12 hot-mix asphalt sections of varying mixes and material depths, and two concrete sections, one continuous and one jointed.

During construction, hundreds of sensors were embedded in the road. They include asphalt strain gauges, pressure cells, linear variable displacement transducers, acceleration meters, soil vertical-pressure and horizontal-strain gauges, concrete joint meters, weigh-in-motion and traffic counters, and moisture measurement devices.

V&G’s Joe Mattlin supervised construction on the project.

In addition to providing information on pavement performance, the Smart Road will give researchers the opportunity to develop and test new transportation technologies in an actual driving environment. The road contains an all-weather section featuring 75 snowmaking towers and a variety of lighting equipment to simulate every kind of driving condition imaginable.

For now, the Smart Road is open only to researchers, who will study road and vehicle data at an onsite control center. Eventually, another four miles will be built, connecting the Smart Road to I-81.

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