Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 27, 2014

Fancy Gap: Safety improvements long overdue

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — A dangerous section of Interstate 77 in Virginia that has a higher than average traffic crash rate due to fog and high wind is finally being addressed by state officials.

Area residents who often travel south toward North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and other regional destinations have experienced the dangers of the Fancy Gap area of Carroll County.

That’s why the announcement Monday from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe of a $7.5 million safety upgrade for this dangerous section of I-77 is welcomed. McAuliffe says the Virginia Department of Transportation will soon begin building a system of electronic signs, cameras and other technology upgrades aimed at improving the safety of this mountainous 12-mile corridor of I-77.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board has awarded the project contract to G4S Technology Inc., of Springfield to design and build an Active Traffic and Safety Management System for the corridor. The I-77 Fancy Gap ATSMS plan includes:

• Infrastructure to support the establishment of variable speed limits based on weather and traffic conditions

• A network of electronic message boards to keep drivers informed of changing traffic and weather conditions

• Additional traffic cameras that will allow complete surveillance of the corridor by VDOT’s traffic operations center, which provides real-time information to drivers through the 511 Virginia system

• Additional detection stations to enhance weather monitoring capabilities

As part of the upgrade, dynamic message signs will be used to communicate information received by the operations center from the visibility detection sensors, traffic cameras and traffic detection sensors. All of these systems aggregate atmospheric and roadway surface condition information as well as traffic speed and volumes. In other words, real-time weather data will be made available to motorists as they travel along the 12-mile corridor. VDOT will be responsible for operating and maintaining the system. VDOT also has contracted with Appalachian Power to complete the electrical infrastructure needed for the project.

McAuliffe says the upgrade will help drivers reach their destination safely be keeping them informed of road and weather conditions. Work on the project is expected to begin this spring. The construction should be completed in the summer of 2015.

The project is welcomed. This newspaper has published far too many stories in recent years concerning accidents and chain-reaction crashes along the Fancy Gap corridor. That’s why it is our hope that the planned upgrades can make a significant difference in improving motorist safety along this dangerous section of I-77 in Virginia.