Creating the World’s First Sustainable Highway

Creating the World’s First Sustainable Highway

January 18, 2017  | Ann Henebery

A 16-mile stretch of highway in southwest Georgia is beginning to earn a reputation as the one of the most sustainable roads in the world. The portion of Interstate 85 in Troup County currently plays host to a number of pilot projects not seen anywhere else in the nation (or in the world).

The Ray – a 16 mile stretch of road in southwest Georgia that is earning a reputation for safety and sustainability. (Source: theray.org)

Spearheaded by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation in 2014, The Ray is named after Ray Anderson. The founder of Interface, a modular carpet company, Ray became a globally-recognized leader in making the business case for sustainability late in his career when he saw the damage his company was causing to the environment. When the Georgia legislature dedicated the road in his honor in 2014, the Foundation saw a perfect opportunity to continue his legacy and reinvent the highway as something that could actually benefit the environment and simultaneously improve roadway safety.

According to their website the road “will be a proving ground for emerging innovations and how they can work together to create a regenerative highway ecosystem.” And despite the fact that it was only started two years ago, The Ray is already home to some of the most innovative highway technology in the world:

  • Solar-paved highway: The first in the United States. This pavement uses “photovoltaic techniques” to provide renewable electricity. The pavement was installed in late 2016.
  • Tire safety check station: This monitoring system sends drivers a text message after they drive over the station. The alert informs drivers of tread depth and tire inflation level. This, in turn, should help reduce emissions and keep roads safer. The tread depth monitor is the first in the world.
  • Solarpowered vehicle charging: This is the state’s first solar-powered electric vehicle charging station.

Other innovations that are in the works for The Ray include bioswales to clean highway water run off and solar sound barriers to reduce noise while also capturing energy. More information about the highway technology can be found here.

While transportation technology is one of the hottest topics around today, you would have to look far and wide for a project that encompasses transportation, technology, and the environment like The Ray does. And the project certainly has a long way to go – 16 miles is a very small portion of our nation’s 164,000 miles of highway. However, The Ray is already forcing experts to rethink what is possible with respect to highways and sustainability.

The organization’s Executive Director, Allie Kelly and President, Harriet Anderson Langford (daughter of Ray Anderson) will serve as the keynote speakers for Eno’s Capital Convergence on January 26 at the Washington Auto Show.

To learn more and register, visit the event page here.

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