The U.S. 460 bypass project provides a direct connection between I-81 and Blacksburg, home of Virginia Tech. The bypass has provided new sites for high-tech spin-off businesses in the corridor.
Project Type:Connector Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:12,275 Length (mi):10.00
Economic Distress:0.67 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):268 Population Growth Rate (%):0.58
Employment Growth Rate (%):1.25 Market Size:60,336 Airport Travel Distance:39 Topography:16
Region:Southeast State:VA County:Montgomery
City:Blacksburg and Christiansburg Urban/Class Level:Mixed Local Area:Blacksburg and Christiansburg
Impact Area:County Transportation System:Highway GIS Lat/Long:37.177348 / -80.416387
Initial Study Date:1998 Post Constr. Study Date:2007
Constr. Start Date:1998 Constr. End Date:2002
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 2000 Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):187,000,000 Actual Cost (curr $):252,978,856
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||33.39||24.20||57.59|
|Output (in $M's)||80.96||58.67||139.63|
The U.S. 460 bypass project provides a direct connection between I-81 and Blacksburg, home of Virginia Tech. The ten-mile long bypass was completed in 2002 at a cost of $87 million. It has supported the growth of high-tech spin-off businesses in the corridor and has provided additional capacity for the expansion of the college stadium. An estimated 748 jobs can be related to the completion of this project, primarily in the creation of a new County business incubator in Falling Branch Corporate Park located on the bypass.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
US 460 is located in Southwest Virginia's New River Valley region. It connects Blacksburg and Interstate 81 at the town of Christiansburg. I-81 extends north to Harrisburg, PA and south to Knoxville, TN. The region is served by the Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport Roanoke Regional Airport is a 45-minute drive northeast on I-81. In 1999, a Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) and Customs Port of Entry (POE) were created in the New River Valley Airport were created.
Aggregate and raw materials (clay, lumber, stone, etc.) are the primary products shipped in the region's freight movements. The importance of some of these transportation connections cannot be understated, particularly regarding freight, which has become increasingly important to this economy. US 460 is part of the New River Valley region, linking Blacksburg and Christiansburg to communities with Interstate I-81 to the south. The New River Valley region is located in Southwest Virginia. The region is bisected by U.S. Interstate Highway 81, and includes U.S. Route 11 and U.S. Route 460. The region includes the New River Valley Airport, the Virginia Tech / Montgomery Executive Airport, and has access to the Roanoke Regional Airport. The importance of some of these transportation connections cannot be understated, particularly since freight transportation has become increasingly important to the local economy.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
Montgomery County has seen a steady growth rate over the past few decades. From 1980-2000, the County gained over 20,000 new residents. The population now stands at 94,500, a 13% increase over 2000.Two-thirds of the county's population lives in the towns of Blacksburg and Christiansburg, while the rest live in the surrounding unincorporated area.
Blacksburg is one of the largest towns in Southwest Virginia and is home to Virginia Tech, one of the nation's leading technology and research universities. Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (CRC) in Blacksburg has been a major catalyst for growth of the region's high-tech cluster. CRC has 140 high-tech companies and a major research center with 2100 total jobs. The Town of Christiansburg, to which the US 460 By-pass connects at its southern terminus, is the county seat of Montgomery County and one of the fastest growing towns in Virginia. Christiansburg is the region's prime shopping destination. Falling Branch Corporate Park, a 175-acre business/industrial park, is in Christiansburg on I-81, near the interchange with the US 460 Bypass.
In 1987, the Blacksburg and Christiansburg Chambers of Commerce asked the Virginia Department of Transportation to consider both short- and long-term solutions for traffic congestion along the old Route 460 which runs from the city center west beyond Virginia Tech. This route had become congested and polluted, impeding the efficient circulation of university and commuter traffic within the region. That same year, Gov. Gerald Baliles' Commission for Transportation in the 21st Century identified a new road to serve as a direct link between Virginia Tech and Roanoke, southwest Virginia's largest city.
The next year, VDOT began a study of Route 460 for possible improvements. In June of that year, the Commonwealth Transportation Board voted to build a new Route 460 Bypass. The purpose of the project was to provide a direct link between Blacksburg and Roanoke, and secondly, to provide a solution to the congestion on Main Street that was causing delays and environmental degradation. The 12.5 mile-long US 460 Bypass was completed in 2002 at a cost of $187 million ($2000).
4.1 Transportation Impacts
Congestion was choking the expanding Main Street retailing districts in Blacksburg and Christiansburg. On football weekends, shoppers avoided the city center due to lengthy traffic jams, resulting in lost sales for retailer. The access improvements produced by the direct interstate connection provided by the bypass expanded regional commuter shed from Montgomery County to the larger New River Valley region. Time savings due to congestion relief enable commuting from Roanoke (45 min.) and beyond.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
The development most directly attributable to the bypass is the Falling Branch Corporate Park. This 175-acre business park is located at the southern terminus of the bypass at the I-81 interchange, a ten-minute trip via the bypass from Virginia Tech. Current businesses at Falling Branch Park include Inorganic Ventures (2008) who initially employed 46 people, investing $3 million. Another is EchoStar Communications (2001) with 600 employees. , Ferguson Enterprises Inc (2003) hired 12 employees and invested $1 million. In 2005, Prestar Packaging opened with 20 people in a $720,000 facility. An estimated 748 jobs can be related to the completion of the US460 bypass project, mainly in the creation of a new County business incubator in Falling Branch Corporate Park.
Other developments benefitting from time savings produced by the bypass include the Virginia Tech Research Center 2.5 miles west of I-81 near the Bypass, and the and the Blacksburg Industrial Park near the northern terminus of the bypass. After the US 460 Bypass was built, Virginia Tech football stadium expanded, adding 10,000 seats. This would not have been able to occur without the additional traffic capacity of the bypass.
Several other factors contributed to the success of this project from an economic development standpoint. One of the foremost was the expansion of Virginia Tech, which grew from 23,000 students in the early 1990's to over 30,000 students today. Smaller colleges and universities (e.g. Radford University) in the region have also expanded. .
The University has sparked a cluster of "spinoff" research and development industries. Virginia Tech Corporate Research Park has provided fertile ground for the monetization of these research innovations and retention of the brain pool in the region. Tourism promotion campaigns conducted by local governments have enhanced the New River Valley region's image, focusing on its proximity to the Appalachian mountains and to several nature preserves/parks.
Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Montgomery Area MPO
City of Blacksburg Planning Department
Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce
Montgomery County Department of Economic Development
Montgomery County Planning Department
New River Valley Planning District Commission
Virginia Department of Transportation
Virginia Tech Institute of Transportation
Case Study Developed by ICF International