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BOV committee discusses connector

By Sookhan Ho

Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 14 - December 3, 1998

The Board of Visitors has authorized the university to work with the Town of Blacksburg and the Virginia Department of Transportation on a project to build a road along the southern perimeter of campus that will connect Hubbard Street with U.S. 460, where a new campus entrance will be created.
From Hubbard Street, the proposed road, about two miles long, will parallel the Virginia Tech Airport runway on the airport's north side before intersecting with Tech Center Drive, said J.B. Sutphin, head of site and infrastructure development of the university's Department of Capital Design and Construction.
From there, the new road will continue west before branching south to link to 460 through a grade-separated interchange at what will become the new entrance to campus for travelers coming off 460. The interchange, which will initially include two loops, will be about 4,000 feet east of the existing 460-Southgate Drive intersection, which will then be closed.
The other branch of the new road will continue north to intersect with Southgate at Duck Pond Drive.
Sutphin, University Architect Scott Hurst, Assistant Vice President for Facilities Spencer Hall, and Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Ray Smoot are the university's principal representatives on the project. They briefed members of the board's Buildings and Grounds Committee on the project at its November 9 meeting.
Town planners see the new road, when eventually extended west beyond the 460 intersection, as an alternative to Prices Fork Road as an east-west route, Sutphin said. Construction is expected to start in approximately three years, he said, with costs to be paid for by the town and VDOT. The route will consist of a four-lane divided road with a raised median from the 460 interchange to Southgate Drive, while the rest will be two-lane.
Sutphin stressed that the route outlined is only "conceptual" at this stage. "A lot of work remains to be done. The route can move a few hundred feet on either side, depending on its environmental and programmatic impact."
Smoot said that the board had originally authorized the university in February 1990 to work with the town on this project. Due to inadequate funding and other reasons, the project was put on the back burner, where it remained until it was recently revived when the town received VDOT funds for the project.
Smoot said the university had to seek re-authorization from the committee and the board due in part to changes made to the original route to promote road safety and smooth flow of traffic.
The Southgate area of campus, he said, has undergone significant development over the last nine years, with the construction of the track/soccer field, the baseball field, and intramural sports fields. "This part of campus is more congested now than it was."
In repositioning the route further south, Sutphin said, planners not only considered safety issues, but also sought to reduce the project's impact on the university's agricultural lands. Planners consulted administrators in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences on the siting of the new interchange.
Although the interchange will take up some of the college's crop acreage, it will allow planners to avoid dividing existing agricultural land when the road is later extended westward, Sutphin said. The project will also restore land to the college currently used for the Southgate Drive intersection with 460.
Robert Cannell, the college's associate dean who attended the committee meeting on behalf of Dean Andy Swiger, said that "Dean Swiger was pleased with the outcome and to have been involved."
The interchange will be nearer the university's Corporate Research Center and airport than the existing 460-Southgate intersection, Smoot said. The project also presents the university with a good opportunity to enhance what most consider to be the main portal into campus.

OTHER NEWS

University architect Scott Hurst briefed the committee on progress on siting the proposed Chemistry/Physics facility. The facility will house classrooms, teaching and research labs, a large lecture hall, faculty offices, and administrative support space for Chemistry and Physics. These departments have substantial space shortages and labs that are antiquated and inadequate, he said.
Hurst and architectural/engineering firm Clark Nexsen, of Norfolk, have identified four possible locations for the facility, all near Hahn, Robeson, and Derring halls. The favored site is an area north of Hahn and west of Derring. Besides being a convenient site to the departments that will be the building's primary users, Hurst said, it would also allow the entire facility to be built in one place.
Reporting on projects under construction, assistant vice president for facilities Spencer Hall said that contractors have installed sprinkler systems in four of five high-rise residence halls (O'Shaughnessy, Pritchard, Slusher, and Lee). Work on the last dorm, Ambler Johnston, will begin next May, and should be completed by the state's deadline of September, 1999.
Hall said the new coal-fired boiler, which has a steam-generating capacity of 100,000 pounds per hour, has been installed. "The boiler meets all 1998 pollution regulations. We're putting it through its paces now."