December 2, 2022

The Unique US Highway That Plays A Tune When You Drive The Speed Limit

Some stretches of U.S. highway are awe-inspiringly beautiful. Complete with rolling hills, expansive horizons, and natural wonders, these places can aptly be described as music to your eyes. But what if there was a road so beautiful that it actually produced music for your ears?

The prospect of a singing road sounds like something pulled directly from the pages of a children’s book, but according to Popular Mechanics, such a harmonizing highway does exist. This singing interstate is situated in an off-the-beaten-path location on Route 66, where Albuquerque connects with Tijeras, New Mexico, and once you reach it, you’ll never think of the word “traffic jam” in quite the same way.

According to Roadside America, adventure-driven travelers can find the quirky plot of highway by taking exit 170 while westbound on I-40 and then traveling east for 3.5 miles. The melodic highway hums between mileposts four and five, but it’s important to note that the road only sings if you’re traveling east.

Belting out to the tune of ‘America the Beautiful’

In case you were wondering what tune local traffic is jamming out to, that would be none other than patriotic classic “America the Beautiful” (via Popular Mechanics). Visitors to the scenic attraction claim the road itself belts out the notes. If you ride through with your windows down, you’re likely to catch an earful of the anthem, but only if you’re going the speed limit and riding right over the strategically positioned highway grooves.

According to Atlas Obscura, the attraction, unofficially dubbed the “Musical Highway,” was created in 2014 when the National Geographic Channel teamed up with the New Mexico Department of Transportation to hammer out a clever way to get drivers to lower their speeds to 45 MPH. Prior to this installment, the long, monotonous Route 66 had a very different nickname — “Bloody 66” — due to the many car crashes that happened on its narrow, lonely roads (per Route 66 News). Today, it appears that several well-funded engineers are seeking to change that tune.

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Getting the groove on gravel

Laying the path for this project is where the true genius shines through. Smithsonian Magazine reports that the road is the work of San Bar Construction Corporation. Their aim was to make the interstate both safer and more exciting at the same time. They also wanted to pay homage to the long-forgotten historical gem. This section of highway was once home to multiple classic car clubs, and heavily traveled by farmers, ranchers, and automobile enthusiasts in the Dust Bowl Era and beyond.

With the rich history and bloody reputation in mind, professionals at the San Bar Construction Corporation meticulously crafted a series of rubble strips spaced in such a way that if you drove over them at precisely the right speed the tune would reverberate from your tires, echoing out under the car and all around. According to Popular Mechanics, this works because “anything that vibrates 330 times per second will produce an E note” making moving car tires no different from the strings on a guitar in their ability to create music.

Mental Floss reports that much like the highway it was built upon, the concept of singing roads has really taken off. You can find more musical interstates far and wide, from Japan to California. The idea is believed to have originated in Denmark in 1995. Since then, it’s become quite the international groove.