BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) A new entrance to Virginia Tech has been about 50 years in the making. Wednesday it was made official.
Starting Thursday, the red light intersection at Rt. 460 and Southgate Dr. will no longer be used, meaning no more red light from I-81 all the way up to Narrows.
The bridge over Rt. 460 looks to be made of Hokie Stone, but it's in fact concrete stained to look like it.
University President Tim Sands said Wednesday, "We're opening a beautiful brand new entrance to our campus, and it's value to Virginia Tech goes far beyond it's beauty."
Sands went onto say there's another key reason for the new entrance.
"Improved safety," he said. "Not only for our students or our faculty and our staff, but for everyone who travels the 460 corridor through Blacksburg."
That's a sentiment the whole university is voicing.
Virginia Tech Spokesperson Mark Owczarski explained, "When you're talking about 9,000 employees coming to work everyday, you've got 30,000 students, parents, football games, commencements, you have a lot of people coming and going to our campus everyday. This is going to make that entrance way to campus a lot safer."
V-DOT confirmed the new bridge and diverging diamond intersection, only the second in the region, is much safer.
V-DOT Spokesperson said, "There are fewer, what engineers call, conflict points where vehicles are crossing into each other's path, there's less of that with a diverging diamond interchange."
Students had already voiced their excitement in this story, and Wednesday an alumni and parent of a student, V-DOT Commissioner Charles Kilpatrick, pointed out how much he's looking forward to visiting with the new entrance.
"This may be my last ribbon cutting as Commissioner of Highways and it's probably one that I will remember the most."
But what of the red light? It's proven to be a problem, and at times dangerous.
"It does get very congested, particularly at peak travel times," Bond said. "We have seen rear-end crashes around that intersection."
So what's the future be with the current entrance.
"Once the new interchange opens, the existing signal on Route 460 will be deactivated and removed," Bond answered.
It's a move that took nearly five decades, but timed out perfectly as Fall Commencement is next week.
"It will be the first really good use of the diverging diamond to help get a lot of cars onto campus at one period of time, and get a lot of cars off campus after the ceremony," Owczarski said.
The new entrance will be open to drivers Thursday morning, likely later in the morning. Crews still have to paint part of the road and have trouble if the ground is too cold.
V-DOT will continue to monitor the entrance and make any changes necessary, much like the similar Valley View interchange that got a new sign shortly after opening.