The Future of Roads May Be in Lego-type Construction

Aaron Cole
by Aaron Cole

Dutch company VolkerWessels is proposing a new type of roadway construction that could make it easier to remove, replace or resurface streets in the near future, Gizmodo is reporting.

The engineering firm is working with the City of Rotterdam to test its early concept. The streets are prefabricated and dropped into place. The roadways use a below-surface tunnel to house infrastructure like water, cables and utilities.

The civil engineering firm is responsible for massive projects in the U.K. and Europe, so their idea isn’t completely out of left field. The company already produces a recyclable asphalt in Rotterdam.

VolkerWessels’ concept for roadway sections would be created out of plastic turned into aggregate for production. The company told The Guardian that it would like to produce fully recyclable roadways within three years.

“It’s still an idea on paper at the moment; the next stage is to build it and test it in a laboratory to make sure it’s safe in wet and slippery conditions and so on. We’re looking for partners who want to collaborate on a pilot — as well as manufacturers in the plastics industry, we’re thinking of the recycling sector, universities and other knowledge institutions,” said Rolf Mars, the director of VolkerWessels’ road division.

The company said asphalt attributes to more than 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions globally, which comprises about 2 percent of overall emissions.

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  • Andras Libal Andras Libal on Jul 15, 2015

    The bike path is red because that is the usual color in Europe for bike paths. I am guessing the road is white because it increases albedo and reduced urban warming a bit (but it might be problematic to drive on in strong sunlight or at night). How can they solve the access to the pipes and cables below without ripping the road up? Also how can they solve the problem of roads with uneven widths, merging lanes, irregular shapes, etc. ?

  • BunkerMan BunkerMan on Jul 15, 2015

    Well, the first snowplow to go over that road will tear it to shreds.

  • 7402 7402 on Jul 15, 2015

    The illustration displays a very simplistic of the under-roadway infrastructure. In real life the depths of different things (electric cables and phone lines, potable water supply, and sewage) yield a vertical depth of at least 4 feet and often much more. As with a lot of innovative technologies, it's easy to slam them for not meeting the entire range of requirements. But if something like this can be successfully implemented 5% of the time at the beginning it's likely that other versions will arrive over time to increase that percentage.

  • Zackman Zackman on Jul 15, 2015

    Roads made of plastic? Yeah, sure. Imagine the off-gassing THAT will give! The constant pounding of trucks and cars make a Trek-deck type road impossible. Maybe this might have worked for the Romans, but many of their roads are still in existence and some even still used and better engineered than modern roads. Plastic just isn't durable for this application. Bike trails and pedestrian walks would be OK.