Build a green highway from “forgotten” country roads?

A proposal to create a “green highway” out of lesser used country roads was reported in Time Magazine this week.  The intriguing idea is centered on country roads that have been bypassed by the Interstate Highway system.  These roads connect small towns and large cities and are still useful if underutilized ways to get around.  The proposal is to repurpose those roads for a class of vehicle called low-speed vehicle (LSV), neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV), and medium speed electric vehicle (MSEV).  The green highway proposal would make a few legal changes including redesignating some of these underutilized country roads to allow the MSEV’s to use these corridors.

The rules for MSEV’s varies from state to state but their practical utility is generally limited to roads of 35 miles/hr or less.  By redesignating some of these underutilized country roads to a 35 miles/hr maximum speed would in theory give another place to use the MSEV’s as well as bicycles and mopeds.

A potential use for this is for long distance bicycling either for commuting or tourism.  There are either existing long distance bicycling routes in some countries or proposals to create such networks.  Some links are listed below.

The following is a Q&A with Dean Curtis, the originator of the Green Highways proposal.

Q: Is the idea to make these roads attractive tourist travel?  Or to make them attractive for daily use?

A: Both. The people who live along these routes and supply towns along the routes with goods and services will obviously still need to use them. Local adoption of the concept is critical to its success. A reduced speed limit will make the road that each town or county council designates much safer and will also bring the potential for additional customers to enter the doors of local merchants.

Q: Why 35?  e.g. your video’s on youtube showed a Sparrow (65 miles/hr) which wouldn’t be legal on this proposed road.  

A: The Youtube video contains footage of vehicles that were at the AltCarExpo in Santa Monica. It was not meant to suggest or exclude any vehicles.

Drivers of all vehicles will be welcome to drive on these routes at the slower 35 mph speed limit. Signage will remind them that they are on a green interstate where slower alternative vehicles may be present. Drivers will need to remain alert for these slower vehicles and grant them give priority to their safe passage.

Violations of the lower speed limits will be enforced as speed limit violations are currently.

Q: Are NEVs suitable for long distance travel, even if you upgrade them for 35 miles per hour? (MSEV’s are 35 miles/hr while NEV’s are 25 miles/hr)

A: Drivers and passengers of each vehicle will need to answer this question. Some will take a vehicle they were inspired to tinker together from their garage and start down a green interstate, finding out along the way that their design needs some improvement.

The great thing about many of the old routes is that, like Michigan 12, there are little towns located every few miles that grew up back in the days when one, two, or four horse-powered-carriages and coaches were the highest transportation technology. Just as the horses needed to be fed, watered, and rested in these many small towns, so too might ecars and altcars, LSVs, NEVs and MSEVs, need to be recharged and adjusted. Local entrepreneurs in small towns across America may find they have previously unforeseen business opportunities supporting travelers along the green interstate.

Q: There are many highway speed EV’s coming within a year or three, so the part of your message saying “EV’s are slow” is soon to be disproved on a large scale.

A: The green interstate concept isn’t being proposed because electric vehicles are considered slow. It’s being proposed so that we can encourage entrepreneurial innovation of alternative vehicles, as well as adoption of, and use of, vehicles that weigh far less and are smaller, by offering a green interstate option.

This concept opens the door for e-vehicle and altfuel-vehicle makers, from garage tinkerers, to university lab explorers, from entrepreneurs, to folks who might rig solar panels on top of a golf cart or RV, to have access to intercity and interstate travel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation does a fantastic job of testing vehicles and helping to keep us safe. As you know, even golf carts are tested.

Safety testing of vehicles for higher speed travel is a costly barrier to entry for entrepreneurs our policymakers and pundits are perennially hoping to encourage.

Permitting slower travel by NEVs, LSVs and MSEVs along certain designated green interstate routes offers a multitude of potential entrepreneurial and environmental benefits, while helping keep all travelers on the routes safer. When we travel more slowly along green interstate routes, we will obviously be taking more time to get to our destinations, however we will also be benefiting the environment, encouraging entrepreneurship, and hopefully will be gaining more enjoyment during our time along the road.

For more info: 

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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