New Fog Lights Installed over Afton Mountain

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Dean Gustafson, VDOT’s regional operations manager for the Staunton and Culpeper districts, pointed out design features in the new fog lights installed along I-64 as it crosses Afton Mountain.
Dean Gustafson, VDOT’s regional operations manager for the Staunton and Culpeper districts, pointed out design features in the new fog lights installed along I-64 as it crosses Afton Mountain.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has replaced the 843 incandescent light bulbs bulbs originally installed in the fog light system on Interstate 64 on Afton Mountain with LED lamps that will be more reliable and use 75 percent less energy.

Dean Gustafson, VDOT’s regional operations manager for the Staunton and Culpeper districts, met reporters at the VDOT Workers Memorial above Greenwood Nov. 24 to describe the improvements.

The first fog warning system on Afton Mountain dates to 1976 with the illuminated signs at the mountain’s approaches that announce foggy conditions around Rockfish Gap. In 1996 the lights along the edges of the road were installed at a cost of $5.1 million and 10 months of effort. The system, which runs from mile-marker 98 in Augusta County to mile-marker 104 in Albemarle,  is controlled from VDOT’s office in Staunton. Five visibility sensors on the mountain allow VDOT managers to know what the visibility distance is. “When visibility goes below 1,400 feet, the lights go on,” Gustafson said. “When visibility gets below 200 feet, motorists must reduce speed.

“The idea is to help motorists see the edge of the road,” he said. “We really need motorists to reduce speed and increase their following distance [in foggy conditions]. The lights can’t help you see cars in front of you. We see people going over 70 mph [in foggy conditions] when they ought not to be above 50 mph.”

The original system used cast iron housings that held two bulbs. The housings were regularly run over by cars and trucks and damaged by snow plows. The new housings are cast iron and aluminum and present a lower profile. They should require less maintenance and have a longer lifespan, Gustafson said. In fact, they are designed for airport runways, he said, and their installation on Afton is their only use in Virginia outside of an airport.

The work was performed by DTS Intelligent Transportation Systems, a national company headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that has three Virginia offices, one of which is in Waynesboro. The work was done at night and was finished in October.

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