We're barely keeping up with the costs of maintaining our roads and bridges as it is, and the cost of construction materials is skyrocketing. New materials and technologies have to be found to replace our current archaic system.
The Solar Roadway is an intelligent road that provides clean renewable energy, while providing safer driving conditions, along with power and data delivery. The Solar Roadway will pay for itself through the generation of electricity along with other forms of revenue. The same money that is being used to build and resurface current roads can be used to build the Solar Roadways. Then, since coal-fired and nuclear power plants will no longer be needed, the costs of all electricity generation plants can also be rolled back into the Solar Roadways. Add too the costs of power distribution systems (power poles, relay stations, etc.)
To many Americans, the I-35W disaster in Minnesota wasn't an isolated tragedy, but the latest in a barrage of infrastructure failures from the northeastern blackout in 2003, and the breached New Orleans levees in 2005, to falling concrete in Boston's Big Dig in 2006.
The U.S. highway system is broken. And it's not clear where the money is going to come from to fix it.
Amid a steady rise in congestion and ongoing deterioration of decades-old roads and bridges, federal and state funding is failing to keep up with the need to maintain existing infrastructure and increase capacity. And the cash shortfall is only going to get worse.
"There is crumbling infrastructure all over the country", said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada
Forty-five percent of the money spent on American roads comes to the states from the Federal Government. The list of projects in need of repair is extensive, according to TRIP, a national transportation research group:
33% of the nation's major roads are in "poor or mediocre condition."
36% of major urban highways are congested.
26% of bridges are "structurally deficient or functionally obsolete."
One reason for the backlog is that funding for highway repair and improvements hasn't kept up with rising construction and maintenance costs, which have far outstripped the overall inflation rate. Higher oil prices have raised the cost of asphalt and the diesel fuel needed to power road-building equipment.
Americans need to face the sobering reality that the country's infrastructure is in trouble. Most of it was built in the 20th century, during the greatest age of construction the world has seen. The continent was wired for electricity and phone service, and colossal projects, including the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge and the interstate highway system, were completed.
We're leasing our roads to foreign investors, who plan to turn them into toll roads. Loaded with investor cash, companies are buying leases of public highways, bridges and tunnels from states desperately trying to improve infrastructure.
Chicago enriched its treasury by $1.8 billion by selling a 99-year lease of the Chicago Skyway to Spanish roads operator Cintra and Australian bank Macquarie. At about the same time, Texas bagged $1.2 billion to let a Cintra-led consortium build the first part of the Trans-Texas Corridor and collect tolls on it for 50 years.
"U.S. infrastructure needs lots and lots of capital, and it's not obvious where all that money is going to come from." Murray Bleach, President of Macquarie Holdings, USA.
There is a much better way. Imagine a highway infrastructure that relieves the financial obligations of the federal and state governments (taxpayers) and instead pays for itself. The Solar Roadways will generate electricity - up to three times more than the entire U.S. currently uses (see Numbers). The electricity generated pays for the Solar Roadways. Additional revenue can be acquired by leasing the conduit within the Solar Roadways to service providers such as the telephone, cable TV, and high-speed internet industries.
The nation's highway transportation system includes 3.8 million miles of roadways and 582,000 bridges. Significantly, the highway system supports 86 percent of all our citizens' personal travel, moves 80 percent of the nation's freight (based on value), and serves as a key component in national defense mobility. Despite widespread redundancies, there are critical junctures with limited capacity for additional traffic. Freight volume is projected to double by 2020, stretching our ability to manage limited capacity and growing security concerns.
"Security concerns" includes terrorism. We've all seen the news reports about suicide bombers boarding crowded buses and detonating themselves. Vehicles such as fuel trucks are also potential targets.
Currently, it's difficult to track these vehicles, other than by radio. The Solar Roadways form a wide area network, with each individual Solar Road Panel containing a microprocessor board with its own address. Think of the Solar Roadways as the internet, with each individual Solar Road Panel acting as an online computer. If we place RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags on high-risk vehicles that we want to track, the Solar Roadways would track them in real time and we'd always know exactly where they were at all times.
US highways badly in need of repair by John W. Schoen, Senior Producer, MSNBC - updated August 3, 2007
Rebuilding America Special Report: How to Fix U.S. Infrastructure by Erik Sofge and the Editors of Popular Mechanics Published in the May 2008 issue
BonnerCountyDailyBee.com by Keith Kinnaird Posted Thursday, April 10th, 2008
They Really Do Own the Road Time Magazine, by Barbara Kiviat, October 29, 2007
Highway Infrastructure and Motor Carrier Modal Annex
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