Freeways don’t have to be so darn drab. Built in 1953 and expanded in 1971, the Arroyo Seco Bridge on Los Angeles‘ 134 Freeway in Pasadena currently includes 10 traffic lanes. Its main purpose is to transport vehicles from Point A to Point B, but in the process it sends a huge amount of carbon emissions into the atmosphere and emits disruptive noise pollution. Michael Maltzan Architecture (MMA) and Arup Los Angeles designed a fix for the bridge, which includes a suite of solar panels and pile of carbon-sponging concrete.

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Their design transforms the bridge into a type of above-ground tunnel that MMA calls a “new infrastructural overlay.” Drivers would still be able to see through the tunnel, but elements like “acoustically insulated walls” and “porous concrete ‘lungs'” would dramatically slash pollution. Arup estimates the insulated walls would cut noise by 65 percent, and the ‘lungs’ could capture 516,000 tons yearly of carbon dioxide. On top of the tunnel solar panels would provide clean energy for 600 homes and a rainwater collection system that would both water plants on the tunnel and add to Pasadena’s water supply.

Related: Los Angeles approves $28 million FAB Park designed by OMA and IDEO

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Not only would the green freeway offer a more sustainable means of transportation, but could generate money for the city of Pasadena. MMA says the “cost savings” – which would be around $1 million – could be given to local schools.

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The green dream won’t become reality just yet; rather, it’s a vision of how aging infrastructure could fit into a sustainable vision for the 21st century. Caltrans, Los Angeles County, and Pasadena would need to work together to build the innovative freeway, though MMA doesn’t yet have an estimate for how much it would cost. But it would clearly offer huge benefits to local residents, and MMA says the concept is “expandable“, such that it could be easily utilized on other freeways.

+ Michael Maltzan Architecture

+ Arup Los Angeles

Via the Los Angeles Times

Images via Michael Maltzan Architecture