WEST POINT, Ga. — Just past the Alabama border, in a bit of rural Georgia filled with manufacturing plants and distribution warehouses, there’s an 18-mile stretch of Interstate 85 where new technologies are being tested for what could be a green highway of the future.
The long-term goal is to build the world’s first sustainable road, a highway that could create its own clean, renewable energy and generate income by selling power to utility companies, while producing no stormwater runoff or other pollution and eliminating traffic deaths.
The project, called The Ray, is an unusual collaboration between state agencies, private companies, and a family foundation that is paying for it. For now, much of the action is centered around the West Point visitors center at exit 2, where there’s the first drivable solar road surface available to the public in North America and, out back, a drive-thru automated tire safety station.
“There are pilots and experiments going on all over the U.S., but everything is atomized, it’s just pieces,” said Robert Puentes, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Eno Center for Transportation, a national think tank. “In Georgia, it’s all in one package, and there’s nothing else like what’s going on down there.”