Washington State is first out of the gate with the nation’s premiere freeway for electric vehicles. Federal stimulus funds totaling more than $1.3 million are helping WSDOT and the state Department of Commerce to begin installing electric-vehicle charging stations from British Columbia to the Oregon state line. Fast-charge stations every 40 to 60 miles will provide a seamless artery for EV drivers on long road trips.
The first charging sites will appear along I-5 north of Everett and south of Centralia. When the north-south corridor stations are up and running in fall 2011, Washington will be home to the first electric highway in the country, just in time for the big national roll-out of EV’s, include Nissan’s Leaf, a fully electric Ford Focus and the Chevrolet Volt. Nearly two dozen other major auto manufacturers are poised to release new, zero-emission plug-ins to major markets over the next few years.
To prepare for this next generation in personal transportation, Washington State is building an alternative-fuel infrastructure and partnering with other states, agencies, utilities and private companies to make it easy for people to drive low- or no-emission vehicles along the West Coast Green Highway and beyond.
Everyone knows clean-burning fuels make a car smarter, but what makes a highway smarter?
Cutting-edge information technology and highway lanes that react to real-time conditions to reduce collisions and smooth out traffic flow are helping WSDOT develop green highways too. Smarter Highways, also known as active traffic management (ATM), reduce congestion and the extra greenhouse gas-emissions from traffic jams. You can already see it working in the form of electric signs that display variable speed limits warning drivers of sudden traffic slow-downs on I-90 near Seattle. Earlier ATM tools have been telling us how long it will take to get from one town to another for years.
Later this summer drivers will experience the latest in Smarter Highways technology in the Central Puget Sound, beginning later this summer on I-5 between Boeing Access Road and I-90 in Seattle. New signs over each lane of I-5 will display speed limits that adjust based on real-time conditions ahead. The technology is proven to reduce collisions that often occur when drivers suddenly reach areas of congestion. The electronic signs also will inform drivers of blocked lanes and other traffic problems up the road as they occur to give them more time to react and more options to avoid backups. The signs will light up only when traffic conditions make them necessary.
The same Smarter Highways technology is coming to SR 520 this winter and I-90 between Bellevue and Seattle later in 2011.
Getting from point A to point B is important to just about everyone who lives or works in Washington State. Whether you’re a student or a truck driver, an executive or a soccer mom, transportation affects your bank account, your limited time and the natural environment that makes Washington unique.
That’s why WSDOT is making the state’s transportation system more efficient and sustainable. That means providing more options for people to share a ride, building an infrastructure for vehicles that run on low- or zero-emission alternative fuels and improving traffic choke points on our busiest routes. We’re working with communities to find sustainable solutions that fit their unique needs. We’re extending the life of our roadways, structures and facilities and using technology to reduce the demand for more highway space.
At WSDOT, we’re turning new challenges – both economic and environmental -- into new opportunities by making sustainability a priority in everything we do. It will improve your life, transform our economy and preserve our environment.