Montgomery County, Va., officials have crafted a proposal to extend the Virginia Smart Road to I-81, creating a new highway link to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

The $215-million plan, which now goes before Virginia's Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) for consideration, would more than double the length of the existing 2.2-mile two-lane highway, fulfilling the Virginia Dept. of Transportation's original vision to combine transportation research with improved highway access to the university and fast-growing surrounding area. Currently, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute manages and maintains the Smart Road as a transportation technology test track.

According to the proposal, adding 3.5 miles of roadway, four bridges, and a new interchange at I-81 would reduce the current 40-minute drive between Roanoke and Blacksburg by nearly one-third. Although VDOT has implemented several corridor capacity upgrade projects in recent years, local officials believe projected increases in traffic volume justify the addition of a direct route.

Should the proposal receive CTB approval, the Smart Road extension would become part of Virginia's six-year transportation improvement program, with construction getting underway by 2024.