A company in Cambridge is taking a leading role in an American project to design a highway with zero environmental impact.
Innovia Technology is working with the Ray C Anderson Foundation to rethink the purpose and function of infrastructure to generate social, environmental and economic value.
The study is asking “is the future of the highway a high-tech corridor or one of ‘frugal innovation’ where smart technology is contained in the vehicle?”, as it tries to progress to its vision called ‘The Ray’ – the world’s first sustainable highway in Georgia, USA.
Innovia’s initial report has evaluated emerging technologies being trialled across the world, including the UK, selecting those with the greatest potential for achieving a zero impact vision for the 16-mile stretch of Georgia highway.
Solar noise barriers to generate energy and cut noise pollution, smart LED lighting to alert drivers and improve safety, recycled asphalt with hog manure binders to reduce environment impacts and boost the local economy, ‘bio-swale’ drainage ditches to reduce flooding and trap pollution, and drive-through tyre pressure monitoring stations, are among the initiatives proposed that could be implemented immediately.
Project Leader Andy Milton from Innovia Technology says, “We’ve been working with The Ray team to identify where we can make the biggest impact in the shortest time, and also to create a future vision of a zero impact highway. We envisage the future could be a road with a lot of embedded smart technology, or alternatively the road itself might be cost-effective and frugal, with all the technology contained within the vehicle.
“We’ve also come to some initial conclusions on suitable technologies for The Ray in the near term. We’ll not be looking to put solar panels on the road itself, to use piezo-electrics to generate energy from traffic, or to capture CO2 from the atmosphere.”
Allie Kelly, Executive Director of The Ray, comments, “It’s incredibly exciting and also enlightening to begin to think about bringing The Ray to life. What does the world’s safest, zero impact highway look and feel like? How does it operate?
“Our goal is to impact not only the environment – through resource efficiency, power generation and emissions capture or minimization – but also to create a safer and more resilient highway for humans and for wildlife.
“Innovia is helping us to crystallize this vision, validating technologies identified in our feasibility study, uncovering new possibilities and also eliminating some approaches as we refine our plan.
“We are zeroing in on a mix of technologies and materials and retrofit approaches to impact energy and infrastructure, thinking about how we can capture data in a way that will be meaningful beyond our stretch of highway, and also imagining what it looks and feels like to travel The Ray.”
Andy Milton adds, “The Ray is an exciting project. It is a unique outdoor experiment that seeks to find the best solutions and everyone is keen to progress quickly so we have looked both at early wins and also the vision of the future.”