Solar Sidewalks, Roads Could Be Part Of Downtown Jacksonville's 'Innovation Corridor'

Nov 19, 2018

Imagine walking on sidewalks that generate electricity from the sun to power street lights or charge up parked electric vehicles.

That’s one of the technologies being considered for the planned smart corridor along Bay Street in downtown Jacksonville, according to North Florida Transportation Planning Organization Executive Director Jeff Sheffield.

“When we talk about new signal controllers, new signal systems, when we talk about pedestrian sensors, flood sensors, possibly solar road path concepts, those are things that can move forward with some of the funding that we already have programmed next July,” said Sheffield.

Sheffield said if the solar idea gains traction it would likely start with a few blocks of sidewalks with embedded solar panels that would potentially power some other parts of the project, called the Bay Jax Innovation Corridor.

A handful of solar roadway projects have been deployed around the world, according to Green Tech Media.

Solar Roadways is one such company trying to advance the idea.  Through crowdfunding, it’s raised more than $2.2 million for the idea and has also secured U.S. Department of Transportation funding.

Jacksonville’s innovation corridor isn’t to the point of putting out bids for the solar sidewalk/road idea.

With solar being just one potential component, tying everything together in a seamless way is going to require a ton of computer coding. Sheffield said another idea being explored is having a coding competition that could lure some of the best and brightest to contribute ideas and advance the project.

“What I find most encouraging is the partnerships that exist for that corridor,” he said. The city, the North Florida TPO, Downtown Investment Authority, the Jaguars, JTA and JEA are all working on the project.

The smart corridor is envisioned as a proof of concept and could serve as a roadmap in a variety of areas, ranging from mass transit to public safety, across the First Coast.

The TPO envisions using a network of sensors to provide new services like smart lighting systems, pedestrian sensors, a flood warning system and a crime detection system.

Once completed,  the 3-mile corridor would run along Bay Street from the under-construction Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center across from the Prime Osborn Convention Center to TIAA Bank Field.

WJCT News has previously reported that the overall plan is expected to cost almost $63 million with funding coming from a variety of local, state and federal sources.

Officials expect to hear by the end of the year whether JTA will be awarded a $25 million federal grant to modernize and expand its Skyway system with autonomous electric vehicles that would run along Bay Street and serve as one of the centerpieces of the project.

Additional Information: Solar Roadways Promotional Video

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org, 904-358-6349 or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Photo used under Creative Commons license.