“Ray C. Anderson was the greenest industrialist of the twentieth century.”
If you spend any time talking with Harriet Anderson Langford about her pet project, The Ray Highway, you’re bound to hear that line. In addition to being a sustainability-focused businessman, Ray Anderson was Harriet’s father.
Ray founded Interface in 1973 and quickly grew it into one of the country’s most successful floor-covering businesses, but a conversation with a friend would change the way that Ray measured success. In 1994, John Picard (now Vice President of The Ray) asked Ray Anderson a simple question: “What is Interface doing for the environment?” It was this question that began the sea-change in Ray Anderson the industrialist. Ray felt convicted that he should be using his business as a means to protect and sustain the environment, so he got to work transforming his company into a force for positive change. Ray Anderson passed away in 2011, but Interface is still on track to eliminate any negative impact on the environment by 2020.
The Ray C. Anderson Memorial Highway was dedicated on July 30th, 2014 and no sooner did Harriet leave the dedication than she began to experience something of a crisis.
“We just named a dirty highway after my father,” she recounts. So, she started looking for ways to make it better.
Initially, the project that would become “The Ray” was simple. They would beautify the highway by planting wildflowers and milkweed, which would provide the added benefit of attracting pollinators like bees and butterflies. But, as great ideas often do, this spark soon became a fire. What if instead of being a polluter and a hazard, a highway could be a positive force in the community?
Projects of this size don’t happen without solid partnerships, and in order to help create those partnerships, Harriet and the newly formed Ray Highway turned to Costas Simoglou and the Georgia Center of Innovation for Energy Technology, creating what they like to call a P4: Public, Private, Philanthropic Partnership. With everyone on board, this dream team got to work identifying ways to transform this stretch of highway, into a vehicle for sustainability.
The Ray project is really the first of its kind, and it was determined early on that a “living laboratory” would need to be identified to test small-scale projects before moving them to the highway. The Georgia Visitor’s Information Center in West Point was chosen for this purpose – owned by the Georgia DOT, managed by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and located along the Ray Highway made it the perfect location to test out innovative technologies in the areas of energy, transportation, safety, and sustainability.
To date, the Ray has been the first in the country to install a solar road, has added a solar-powered electric vehicle charging unit that can replenish 80 percent of an EV’s battery in 30 to 45 minutes, and opened the country’s first free roll-over tire safety stations – which will read tire pressure and tread depth to let you know if you are wasting energy by incorrectly utilizing your vehicle’s tires.
A number of projects are in the pipeline for the Ray. From the country’s first pollinator-friendly solar right of way which will provide not only energy but revenue, to the Ray’s first proprietary technology. The Smart Road Dot is a first of its kind innovation developed by The Ray which has the capability of gathering data on the highway and relaying that data to cars on the road in real time. All of this adds up to one of the most exciting projects to ever be deployed on a highway.
The Ray Executive Director Allie Kelly sums up why The Ray is such an exciting project for the State of Georgia, “Every day you read another news article about autonomous cars or the future of transportation and flying around in your own helicopter taxi, but what The Ray is doing is it’s making those future concepts and technologies real today in a working environment.”
The Ray is making the highway smarter, and we think it’s about time.
Learn more about the Center of Innovation for Energy Technology.
To watch the video about this project click here or view below.