In an attempt to lower temperatures, the city has unveiled “cool pavement,” which one city engineer described as sunscreen for the road. The light-colored coating, which is applied atop the pavement, reflects sunlight and absorbs less heat than dark-colored asphalt.
So far, the city has coated about 100 miles of roadway with cool pavement and hopes to coat another 18 miles by the end of the year. Los Angeles has been gradually rolling out a similar program with success since 2019.
Conventional paving materials can reach up to 120-150 degrees in the summer, but the application of cool pavement can reduce this significantly. At noon, when the sun is most intense, areas coated with cool pavement are 10.5-12 degrees lower than asphalt. On average, cool pavement is 4.8 degrees cooler.
Cool pavement can also reduce the “heat island effect.” During the day, hard surfaces in cities like Phoenix absorb heat, which is released later and results in high nighttime temperatures. However, areas treated with cool pavement experience nighttime air temperatures at 6 feet above ground that are half a degree lower than untreated areas.
“It’s a difference you can feel,” Mayor Kate Gallego said.
As Phoenix continues to trend hotter, this is just one way to ensure that the city continues to be livable, city engineering manager Ryan Stevens told Fox Weather.
“I’m a native of Phoenix, so I want to make my community a better place to live,” he said. “And so it’s important to me to try to innovate and see how we can again make Phoenix cooler than it is even today and combat that heat so that we still have a Phoenix in 50 or 100 years from now.”
While some Phoenix residents think the cool pavement is ugly — “it has a certain aesthetic that some find pleasing, and others don’t,” Stevens said — Phoenix homeowner Katie Bechtel told Arizona Family she thinks “anything that can be done to help the city cool down should be done.”
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