The Missouri DOT's Road to Tomorrow Initiative announced this week that one of their pilot projects will be building the country's first solar roadway on a public right of way at the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center in Conway, Missouri. The plan is to pave the test area with rugged solar panels which will generate power could be later sold to the grid, creating a self-perpetuating fund for future roads.
The department is looking into a project with Solar Roadways of Sandpoint, Idaho, which is developing solar panels that can be driven upon. “If their version of the future is realistic, if we can make that happen, then roadways can begin paying for themselves,” said Tom Blair, leader of the department’s Road to Tomorrow Initiative.
One of the original highways in the U.S. Highway systems, Route 66 (also known as the Will Rogers Highway, the Main Street of America, or the Mother Road) was established November 11, 1926. The 2,448 mile drive ran from Chicago to Santa Monica, California 'til it was officially removed from the United States Highway System on June 27, 1985 after it had been replaced in its entirety by segments of the Interstate Highway System, leaving Historic Route 66 markers that are still followed by enthusiasts.
Route 66 is one of several pilot programs Missouri's DOT is initiating as part of a plan to position the state for 21st century innovations. Other pilot programs include testing smart highway technologies, truck platooning, and other opportunities to generate revenue from collected highway driver data.
“We expect the solar panels at the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center at Conway to be in place, I’m hoping, by the end of this year, maybe before snow flies,” Blair said. The project could generate a lot of interest by bringing “the history and the future together,” he said.
Read more about the new kicks on Route 66 here: