2500-Mile Route 66 — From LA To Chicago — Set To Be America’s First Solar Roadway

Route 66, the nearly 2500-mile historic highway that runs from Los Angeles to Chicago, will soon become the first solar roadway in the United States.
Sections of the famous highway, also known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, are set to be paved by hi-tech interactive solar panels (made of specifically formulated tempered glass) that contain LED lights, heating elements, and microprocessors.

As part of its Road to Tomorrow initiative, aimed at addressing future transportation and funding, the smart makeover of Route 66 comes as a result of a partnership between the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and Idaho-based smart energy startup Solar Roadways. The first Solar Roadways panels are expected to be installed at the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center in Conway, before the end of the year.
Tom Blair, head of MoDOT’s Road to Tomorrow initiative, feels the pilot project will get Missouri and MoDOT prepared for 21st century innovations, as well as rebuild the oldest part of the interstate system.
“Solar roadways can hopefully create new revenue streams. If their version of the future is realistic, if we can make that happen, then roadways can begin paying for themselves. The project could generate a lot of interest by bringing “the history and the future together”. We are going to go out there publicly and on the Internet and ask for money to make our solar roadway pilot project even bigger and better.”

In recent months, Route 66 has seen a growing number of electric car charging stations; some states are even pushing for solar panels and electric buses. In Illinois, where Route 66 begins, a network of electric vehicle charging station has been installed from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.

Are Solar-Powered Highways Feasible?

Solar Roadways asserts that their solar panels are better and more durable than concrete or asphalt; that neither of those materials provides free energy; and that their solar-powered roads would deliver three times the country’s electricity demands.
However, it’s been estimated that paving the nation’s roads with solar panels would cost about $56 trillion [the cost of the hexagonal panels is estimated at about $70 per square foot, which is about 10 times the price of regular asphalt]; and once initial costs have been met, writes The Verge, there’s the issue of maintenance. Joel Anderson observes:
“There’s currently a virtually endless supply of places you could install solar panels that DON’T have cars driving over them and, as such, don’t require fancy high-tech glass covering them. Or, for that matter, don’t mean you have to worry about the long-term wear-and-tear of millions of tons of steel and rubber driving over them at high speed every year.”
In 2014, the first solar roadway opened in Netherlands’s capital Amsterdam — a 70-meter stretch of bike path made of solar panels — and it yielded positive results. Although the project was experiential and thus a little expensive, the energy output not only exceeded initial expectations, it opened doors for further development of new solar technologies. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is currently exploring the possibility of a solar bike path in the United States, based on the technology used in the Netherlands.

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