By on July 14, 2015


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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26 Comments on “The Future of Roads May Be in Lego-type Construction...”

  • avatar

    Nice to see some innovative thinking

  • avatar

    And they appear to have plans for shrinking cities’ populations down to 10 middle class white people per square mile. That’ll really open up some green spaces!

  • avatar

    Fascinating idea. Makes sense on paper much the same way that modular construction of buildings does, although I don’t know why the idea never really caught on for house building — I wonder if this will face the same obstacles as that has.

    One big advantage: Far less disruption, as traffic need not be stopped for the time it takes to build the road.

  • avatar

    It looks good for occasional use.

    I doubt it would work great for any place with heavy truck traffic and lots of stoplights.

  • avatar

    So is this plastic pellets heated to plastic goop on site and poured? Or prefabbed modular sections that have to be transported in by special, traffic-strangling megatrucks?

    If the former, no one will ever again complain about the smell of asphalt.

    • 0 avatar

      This this this. I cant believe anything is cheap enough and yet strong enough to put up with constant 4,000lb cars AND the occasional large truck, god forbid a tractor trailer.

      Unless its for a closed gate mixed pedestrian light vehicle community like their idealised picture there, I suppose we can put this article in the mental circular filing cabinet.

  • avatar

    So instead of using a material that’s 5% petroleum and fully recyclable(regular old asphalt paving), let’s use something that’s 100% petroleum. Add the necessary supporting structure – steel, concrete, etc, and I’d be surprised if the cost is less than those pie-in-the sky light rail projects. And that doesn’t even consider the surface treatments that might make it marginally safe. Bike and pedestrian paths might work, but not much else. Additional research required, please sent copious quantities of government money. They’ve already used the necessary trigger words(see last sentence in the article)so the grant application should be a piece of cake. They could get bonus points if they integrated solar panels into the surface.

    • 0 avatar

      bnolt, did you not notice that this is a foreign company, so none of your precious tax money will be spent on it. Not every idea that is proposed does work out, but some do. Some work out spectacularly. We don’t know about this idea yet. I wonder why some people can not see beyond the end of their nose about things that might work and need to be explored. Especially, since it is not costing you a dime. Take a positive atitude and things might look better to you.

  • avatar

    I like the idea, and hope it turns out to be economically feasible. I’m surprised more modular construction isn’t used in roads, especially in bridges.

  • avatar

    And when a tornado comes along, they make the same loud clacking sound that real Legos do when they go up the vacuum cleaner.

  • avatar
    Andras Libal

    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. ?

  • avatar

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

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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