It’s the end of the line for the Roanoke Valley Resource Authority trash train that for 27 years transported millions of tons of garbage to Smith Gap Landfill at the county’s western border. After its final run Friday evening, the rails will be paved over, and a fleet of tractor-trailers soon will assume the route of the trash train and its 27 old, corroded gondolas, each capable of carrying up to 65 tons. Deciding to ditch the rails took more than five years of due-diligence, said RVRA CEO Dan Miles.

“The best long-term financial solution for the authority is to transition from its current mode of using the rail system to trucking,” Miles said. “We’re building a new road, putting a road in place where the rail system is.”

From the Ironto exit on Interstate 81, contractors will pave a 4.5-mile stretch of former Norfolk Southern railroad, making it suitable for the authority’s fleet of trash trailers to traverse, at a rate of about 40-50 times daily. The work should be done this summer. “It’s just a long driveway for our landfill, it’s a private road, going to be confined to our traffic that uses the landfill, and for emergency use,” Miles said. “Upon completion of our project, the truck traffic will not touch Bradshaw Road.”

Other conversion work is required to road-ready Tinker Creek Transfer Station, where, through Friday, trash was loaded onto the train. The landfill itself needs some facility upgrades, too, Miles said, but other efforts, like readying the Salem Transfer Station to transport trash by truck, were finished years ago.

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Author: Luke Weir, The Roanoke Times
Image: Luke Weir, The Roanoke Times