Roanoke Valley Resource Authority Waste-Hauling Transformation

Smith gap landfill, overhead photo

Roanoke Valley Resource Authority Waste-Hauling Transformation

Guiding a Waste-Hauling Conversion From Railway to Truck 

For decades, the Roanoke Valley Resource Authority transferred solid waste from the Tinker Creek Landfill to the Smith Gap Landfill along a 33-mile railway route. When an agreement with the rail carrier was scheduled to expire, RVRA began to explore an alternative solution: truck hauling. Our team played a key role in that conversion, laying out options and guiding implementation, which led to significant annual savings for RVRA. 

Approximately 700 tons of solid waste is generated every day in RVRA’s service area — Roanoke County and the cities of Roanoke, Vinton and Salem — necessitating a careful and visionary approach to a potential conversion. An added wrinkle was the addition of the nearby Salem Transfer Station to RVRA’s operating fleet during negotiations. While the location was in sequence with the current rail route, discussions with the rail carrier reached an impasse, and waste from the station eventually had to be transferred via tractor trailers. 

Our initial analysis showed that a conversion to truck hauling created significant operational cost savings for RVRA, which paid for the system modifications and passed on to its members and businesses. To allow time to build out truck-hauling infrastructure, RVRA successfully came to a short-term, stop-gap agreement with the rail carrier along with direct haul arrangements to other disposal facilities. 

Constructing a Cost-Effective Truck-Hauling Operation 

Our team suggested modifying five main infrastructure pieces to make truck hauling feasible and cost effective:   

  • Adding accommodations for top-loading walking floor trailers at Tinker Creek Transfer Station.
  • Physically expanding the Salem Transfer Station facility, adding drive-through tunnels for top-loading capability, a new roadway network, and decommissioning the aged stationary compactors. 
  • Constructing a 3/4-mile connector road providing access from the local roads to RVRA’s dedicated rail spur property, minimizing residential impacts. 
  • Converting a 5-mile railway spur to a haul and access road to Smith Gap Landfill.  
  • Modifying Smith Gap Landfill to receive tractor trailer vehicles, including automated scales. 

Our team developed and oversaw construction and permitting for a drive-through tunnel for the Salem Transfer Station that allowed two trailers to load simultaneously. At the Tinker Creek Transfer station, we permitted and designed the conversion to a top-loading configuration as well.

To keep waste-hauling traffic off residential-lined roadways, a new road was constructed, and the railway spur was converted, creating a direct connection from the interstate to Smith Gap Landfill. We led land acquisition, permitting and design. 

Despite the major conversion, operations were minimally impacted for residents. The first truck haul along the new system occurred just 114 days after rail hauling ceased. The conversion also improved RVRA’s hauling capabilities, giving them the option to work with other nearby municipalities, reducing shared costs and increasing revenues. 

Smith gap landfill, overhead photo
Roanoke Valley Resource Authority

Roanoke County, VA
United States