Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Roads To Blacksburg

An early shot of the Tech bookstore that shows College Avenue (left in photo) still connecting to the drillfield

If you were here in 1970 you might remember, at some point in that decade, that :

*  Prices Fork Road was just a simple two lane country road, and heading east (toward town) it didn't even connect to Main Street.  You had to angle up Turner Street past the Tech electric plant to hit North Main.  Likewise, going west, there was a single street light at the top of the hill just before the Marriott and when you got to the 460 Bypass it was level with that road and only had a stop sign (the same with Toms Creek Road and 460 intersection).

*  When leaving town via South Main you'd pass Hokie Honda then curve down a hill toward Merrimac, then find the ramp to the right which brought you up onto 460.

*  Patrick Henry Drive which connects North Main Street to Toms Creek Road didn't exist.

*  College Avenue passed in front of Squires Student Center and hooked up with the drillfield (see photo above).

*  In 1970 if you were heading to Blacksburg using Interstate 81 you had to get off at the Dixie Caverns exit. The interstate highway wasn't finished then .... you had no choice!  I believe it was completed sometime in late 1971.

Lots of other minor subdivision type roads weren't in place then either, naturally.  But if you think of any other "major" differences, please chime in.


  1. During the fall of 1976 thru the summer of 1977 we live at 1200D Terrace View. The first floor patio of our apartment was adjacent to a large cow field which was very private and relaxing (two things that were necessary for our 1970's lifestyle).

    Today, 1200D Terrace View is literally 10 feet from Patrick Henry Drive.

  2. That landscape seriously changed, didn't it?

  3. There was only a handful of traffic lights between downtown and I-81 in the '70s. There was a light at Country Club Dr., a light at VA 114 (Peppers Ferry Rd. or Powder Plant Rd. for the older ones) and a light at the far end of the Christiansburg Bypass at Roanoke Rd. There was only a stop sign for the left! turn onto the north end of the C'burg Bypass across N. Franklin St. (VDOT has a long history of screwing up that part of the highway). It wasn't until around 1978 or '79 that a light was installed at the hospital entrance and the light at the bypass entrance (and a second turn lane) came later.

  4. Bruce, I so well remember the lack of traffic lights. It was great wasn't it? And yes, I also remember passing the bowling alley on 114 and then hitting a stop sign before turning left to go down the BIG hill ... and at the top of the next hill was, of course, Hills shopping center. Do you remember this one? .... on 460 in the Elliston area there was this funny place in the road (when heading west back toward Blacksburg) that you had to swerve around something like a giant rock. They finally straightened out the highway there some years later.

    1. Yeah, at the beginning of the Elliston Straightaway. There is/was a little thumb of a ridge sticking out there right as you came out of Elliston and the road bowed to the right then curved to the left and hit the long straight stretch that ended at the curve and bridge across the Roanoke River and hill into Shawsville. I think the road was straightened when Eastern Montgomery High School was built, since that is where the entrance to the school is, with a traffic light.

  5. Dennis, that comment about 81 not being finished reminded me of when all of the alter boys at St. Mary's were taken on a trip to Roanoke to see the Virginia Squires, who played home basketball games in both Roanoke and Hampton, I believe. They had a young player named Julius Erving as well. We had a spaghetti dinner at Roma Restaurant, then on to the game, all hosted by Father Bill Gardener. On the way home, a couple of the boys' fathers who had agreed to drive decided to try out the new section of 81, even though it was several months from completion, and no doubt HIGHLY illegal. Parts of the interstate were gravel only, and I remember that dad that I was riding with had a distinct air of regret about him. I am not about to rat out the fathers, but I know my brother Cheese and Greg and Mark Todd remember this story well.

  6. I don't remember Prices Fork Road being anything other than a two lane country road (66-70) but I do recall some work going on behind the Aerospace Engineering building, they were doing some blasting and had big steel mats over the blast area. One blew way up in the air and came down across the power lines wiping out power for the entire university. And I remember the exit off 81 near Dixie Caverns well, coming down that four lane divided road back toward Christiansburg just on dusk one night I saw a pair of headlights heading towards me in the other lane. I pulled over into the RH lane just in time as some joker came whizzing past at 60 heading the wrong way in the LH lane. I always wondered how far he went before he realized he should be the other side of the dividing strip, (or worse).

  7. I don't know exactly when they shut down College Avenue past the Bookstore, but I do know it was closed for library construction when I started in Fall 1980. You could still see the road and markings, but there was a tower crane set up there, and the whole area was fenced off.

    At one point the elevated part of the tower crane came crashing down. Nobody was hurt, but someone quickly posted a sign on the fence for "Wahoo Engineering"...

  8. In the fall of '82 when I was a freshman was when they finally closed College Avenue between Squires and the Drill Field, IIRC. I recall that whole section being roped off with a "We apologize for the inconvenience" sign... with something sarcastic hand-written on it.