City of Phoenix has temporarily stopped installing Cool Pavement, here’s why

Phoenix paused its “Cool Pavement” program so engineers could resolve concerns found during routine testing about the thickness and texture of the product.
Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 6:11 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The city of Phoenix confirms it has paused installing “Cool Pavement” so engineers can resolve concerns found during routine testing about the thickness and texture of the product.

The city began testing Cool Pavement in certain neighborhoods to combat the effects of the urban heat island. Phoenix has spent millions of dollars installing more than a hundred miles of the special coating. As Arizona’s Family Investigates reported in July, it could make people hotter. A spokesperson said it was the second time they paused the program this year. They also stopped installing it from mid-June to mid-August.

What started as a pilot program with ASU in 2020 quickly expanded. “It’s reducing the surface temperature, which is great for reducing our urban heat island effect,” Ryan Stevens, an Engineer with the city’s Street Transportation Department, said. ASU’s researchers found that just 6 feet from the pavement, the air temperature was only .3 degrees cooler during the day and only half a degree cooler in the evening.

A study found that cool pavement makes people hotter because the sunlight reflected off the road is absorbed by people on it.

“We see it as a success because even a half a degree Fahrenheit reduction in air temperature can substantially reduce energy use for air conditioning and water use,” Dr. David Sailor with ASU said. He’s currently the Director of the School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning. Dr. Sailor acknowledged another finding that cool pavement could make people on it hotter. As much as 5.5 degrees hotter. That’s because the sunlight reflected off the road doesn’t go away. Instead, people on or near it absorb it.

“That concern is easily outweighed by the benefits of the cooler air temperature,” Dr. Sailor said.

Arizona’s Family Investigates asked the city why they chose to move forward with Cool Pavement and not wait for more research to come back. “Well, I think paved surfaces comprise about 40 percent of our urbanized area, so there’s a lot of areas we can address,” Stevens said. “We want to be leading in this space.” Stevens points out that the roads getting the Cool Pavement need to be sealed anyway. While Cool Pavement is three times more expensive, early findings show it holds up to wear better and protects the infrastructure under the road.

The city said it was working with the contractors installing it and GuardTop, the company that makes it, to fix it.

Both declined our requests for an on-camera interview but did release the following written statements.

Phoenix officials say the paving season will run through October, but it’s unclear if they’ll be able to fix the issue by then. GuardTop offered a different assessment. They said they’re confident the application schedule will resume by the second week of October.

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