A growing trend of cities and companies are rethinking how they will upkeep and maintain the nation’s most expensive infrastructure – roads. Estimated to cost $836 Billion (yes- BILLION) dollars to repair the nation’s roads and bridges, engineers are searching for new techniques for the yearly upkeep.
Throughout much of Los Angeles, summer months mean sizzling – at times even uncomfortable – conditions.
Parts of the city are often draped in what the Environmental Protection Agency refers to as a “heat island effect,” in which busy foot and vehicle traffic work in conjunction with heat-absorbing black pavement to effectively make an area hotter than it already would have been. The annual mean air temperature of a city with a population of at least 1 million people can be more than 5 degrees warmer than its more rural surroundings due specifically to this effect.
And so, in its own way, Los Angeles last summer joined a growing trend of cities, municipalities, and companies across the country rethinking how they update and maintain the nation’s expensive, aging infrastructure.
For the City of Angels, that meant painting some streets white.
“We learned that the environmental community thought that the heat island effect could be mitigated by having more reflective pavement,” says Greg Spotts, the assistant director of the Bureau of Street Services for the City of Los Angeles. “The city is 5 to 15 degrees hotter than the surrounding countryside, and we think that’s because of the concrete and steel and asphalt we’ve put in.”
Spotts’ department secured $150,000 in funding from the Los Angeles City Council and last summer began treating one block in each of the city’s 15 districts with CoolSeal coating – a paint-like material that covers the road in a lighter hue, theoretically reflecting more heat away from the road to maintain cooler temperatures.
When asked about lofty price estimates suggesting the experiment could come with a price tag as high as $40,000 per mile, Spotts says his department “didn’t provide that figure” and that “it’s still very early days to figure out the costs, because we’ve been putting this out one block at a time.”