Speaking at the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission meeting in June, Tom Blair, leader of MoDOT’s ‘Road to Tomorrow’ initiative, announced the department’s plans to address smart highways, platooning truck traffic and solar panels on the road way.
Headlining the pilot initiatives are the proposed ‘smart pavement’ solar panels, that will feed into the electrical grid, and are said to offer several advantages over asphalt and concrete.
The hexagonal tempered glass paving panels capture the sun’s energy, and are designed to deliver the same traction as pavement. LED lights in the panels would eliminate the need to paint lines and can display messages like 'slow', while integrated heating elements are able to melt snow and ice - instead of using salts and chemicals.
MoDOT hopes that the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center will be first to get the hesolar roadway panels, possibly by the end of this year.
“We expect them to be in place, I’m hoping, by the end of this year, maybe before snow flies,” Blair said.
He added that the project brings “history and the future together”.
Crowd-funding will be sought by the department to expand the reach of the solar roadway project.
“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,” said Blair.
Other initiatives announced at the event include the development of smart highway technologies with data and technology services to generate revenue, truck platooning - which uses a series of semi-trailers and heavy vehicles and operates them as one connected vehicle to reduce fuel consumption and improve safety.
These pilots will help to rebuild the oldest part of the interstate highway system, replacing a bridge that is in critical condition and alleviating a choke point on Interstate 70.
In addition to the crowdfunding, the department has applied for two grants and the revenue raised by the pilot programs once they have been introduced.
The Route 66 technology upgrade follows the development in 2014, where Illinois governor Matt Quinn announced that Route 66 would host a network of electric vehicle charging stations along the 483-kilometre stretch between Chicago and Lake Michigan.