MoDOT tests solar sidewalk at rest area as an innovative way to save create heat, save electricity, cut down on pollution from gas-powered snow blowers and plows

CONWAY, MO – Visitors to the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center at Conway, Missouri will see the installation of solar panels in late September. The Missouri Department of Transportation has partnered with Solar Roadways of Sandpoint, Idaho, to install and help test the company’s solar panels on a 12-foot-by-20-foot area of the main sidewalk at the westbound Welcome Center.

The pilot project will allow MoDOT to test how the hexagon-shaped panels fare in Missouri’s weather, and are particularly interested to see how effective the panels will be at melting snow and ice during the winter months. The pilot project will test the LED lights in the panels, to see if there is potential for them to take the place of traditional pavement stripes. Officials will also be monitoring the amount of energy produced, and looking at how that can be used to help power the Welcome Center and offset running costs.

The project is part of MoDOT’s Road to Tomorrow Initiative, which aims to develop public-private partnerships to look a new and innovative ways to fund Missouri’s transportation infrastructure. The sidewalk project with Solar Roadways will cost $102,000, which comes from federal funds earmarked for such research. If the pilot project is successful, MoDOT will consider the potential of crowdfunding to expand the project into the parking lot, or onto the entrance ramps to the interstate, to test how the panels hold up under traffic.

Laurel McKean, MoDOT Assistant District Engineer, says, “This is a really exciting project to be able to take the spirit of Route 66 combined with innovations in transportation to carry that spirit into the future.”

McKean says the department will be testing an environmentally friendly way to keep snow and ice off the sidewalks at the rest stop in Conway, Missouri.

“Usually, any time that we build a roadway or a sidewalk it’s usually your typical asphalt or concrete,” she states. “These are actually tempered glass-topped panels that essentially allow the sun to come through, produce power to run the panels themselves.”

Solar Roadways, an Idaho-based startup, worked with the Department of Transportation to develop the panels.

McKean says it’s an innovative way to save electricity and cut down on the fumes generated by gas-powered snow blowers and plows.  “If we were to install these on a road or sidewalk on anywhere, it creates heat so you don’t have to use chemicals or ice melt or anything to remove snow and ice off them – and being able to use recycled products and not have to maybe use the asphalt that has chemicals and stuff in it,” she points out.

McKean says it’s nice to be able to take the history of Route 66 and use it to promote the future.

“We can help them move towards actually putting it in a place where cars and trucks are going to travel on, and seeing how much we can expand it,” she states. “You know, putting it on an actual roadway is still a little bit, you know, down the road but seeing how we can help them progress and really test its viability.”

You can follow the pilot project on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Route66Solar or on Twitter @SolarRoute66 or on the MoDOT website at www.modot.org/road2tomorrow.

The Solar Roadways program is one of several of MoDOT’s pilot projects to promote transportation technology in the state.

MoDOT also is working on smart pavement, smart traffic control and truck platooning, which connects commercial trucks via wireless technology, allowing the trucks to follow at a closer distance to get better fuel mileage and for safety reasons.

For more information, contact Jennifer Williams at (417) 895-7713 or MoDOT Communications at (417) 895-7600.