Researchers with Virginia Tech have announced that they are working with state officials on an important project meant to reduce the number of accidents that occur along one particularly foggy stretch of I-77 located in Carroll County, VA. The Virginia Department of Transportation says that it will install a new variable speed limit system along a stretch of I-77 that can quickly be changed to respond to decreases in visibility and hopefully make the roadway safer for drivers.
The Virginia DOT says that the system will be installed on a stretch of I-77 between Fancy Gap and the North Carolina border. Virginia Tech says that it is working with VDOT to test which brightness level and color would work best for the new variable speed limit signs.
Currently, there is only one electronic billboard in each direction in the fog-prone area to warn drivers of danger. It was in this same area that a massive 95-car pileup occurred in March of this year. That accident, near Fancy Gap, left three people dead and several dozen injured. Transportation officials say the severity of that accident highlighted the need to take action to improve the safety of I-77.
The new system is an expensive one and is estimated to cost $8.5 million which includes the installation costs of putting in 22 variable speed limit signs in the area. Beyond the signs, the system includes an array of cameras, fog detectors, wind and traffic measuring tools. VDOT officials say that they hope to have the new system up and running by the summer of 2015.
Though the 95-car pileup is what prompted the recent overhaul along I-77, it is far from the only damaging accident to take place along the busy corridor. News reports mentioned an accident that occurred this past weekend when an Ohio man was killed in a six-car crash. Residents in the area say they frequently avoid traveling on I-77 when weather is bad and the Carroll County school system revealed that after parents expressed concern it decided to ban all school buses from using the interstate.
The steepness of the stretch of interstate as well as the presence of large numbers of tractor-trailers combine to make it an especially deadly stretch of road. Though everyone welcomes the changes planned by VDOT, many wonder whether the variable speed limit signs will be enough to combat the presence of so many large commercial vehicles, fast moving traffic and potentially hazardous weather conditions.
Here's a Google Map showing the location of the dangerous stretch of I-77: