Since ancient times, humans have been altering the environment to create throughways for the transport of food and goods, not to mention travel and military defense. But over the course of thousands of years, little has changed regarding the way roads are built. It’s still a necessity to clear trees and disrupt layers of earth to make way for smoother, more durable foundations, but at what cost?
Highways are one of the most environmentally damaging and dangerous infrastructure systems in the world, adding five million tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere nationally each year. According to the World Health Organization, transport-related air pollutants pose a direct threat to human health while also damaging ecosystems, which negatively affects agricultural productivity and food security. As concern mounts for our warming planet, the vast and intricate network of roadways across the globe remains an untapped opportunity to reverse escalating levels of carbon emissions.
But transportation systems notoriously lag behind other sectors when it comes to sustainable design, largely because implementing new materials and processes poses significant risks in a safety-first industry. “In the transportation sector, everything you do needs to be looked at through the lens of safety,” says Allie Kelly, who understands these challenges first-hand as executive director at The Ray—the world’s first regenerative transportation system.