The first public solar road in the US could be coming to the Historic Route 66 Welcome Center in Conway, Missouri, about 180 miles southeast of Kansas City. The roadway is part of the Missouri Department of Transportation's Road to Tomorrow project that was announced last year. The Road to Tomorrow works on things like connected cars, public transit, and rebuilding infrastructure.

The solar project would be built by Idaho-based Solar Roadways. That's the husband-wife ownership team that raised $2.2 million via crowdfunding in 2014 after working on the idea for more than a decade. Solar Roadways has also received $750,000 in research and weather-testing grants from the US Department of Transportation as well as a $100,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration to build a solar road-panel prototype.


The Missouri Department of Transportation hasn't disclosed specifics on how long the roadway would be or how much it will cost to build – just that it will have a connection to Route 66. That iconic highway, which was officially designated in 1926, spanned about 2,500 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica, California, and was synonymous with the country's westward expansion. By 1970, the route had been effectively replaced by the US interstate system.

Missouri's solar roadway won't be a global first. Earlier this year, French infrastructure firm Colas worked with INES (France's National Institute for Solar Energy) on a planned 620-mile-long solar roadway project. The so-called Wattway would consist of quarter-inch-thick, extra-strong solar-panel material that would be glued over the top of highway pavement. Once built, that project has been estimated to provide enough energy to power 3.1 million households, or about 10 percent of France's homes. There have been other, smaller solar road projects, as well.

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