The Musical Highway That’ll Bore You To Death

Road trips can be pretty damn exhausting, especially if your radio, aux cable or CDs are busted.

Luckily, there are a few stretches of road that’ll play music for you and all you have to do is drive on ’em. There’s a patch of Route 66 that travels east out of Breaking Bad’s Albuquerque, New Mexico and head to the ghost town of Tijeras. For a quarter-mile stretch of road, there’s actually something slightly entertaining to occupy yourself, but not for long.

As you can see in the clip above, drivers have the ability to make the road sing and this is all thanks to the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) teaming up with the National Geographic Channel. They had an idea to make a roadway that sings and sought the help of New Mexico-based traffic control device company San Bar Construction Corp.

They they created a stretch of roadway that plays “America the Beautiful” whenever you drive over it, but only if you’re traveling at 45 mph. The idea was to encourage driving at the speed limit while giving motorists something “fun” to spice up the boring highway.

Newsflash, mates. Driving at 45 mph and hearing “America the Beautiful” isn’t fun at all.

“Route 66 is a very historical roadway and [NMDOT] thought it would be neat to do something like this on such a unique piece of highway,” Matt Kennicott, director of communications for NMDOT, told Smithsonian.

“We chose this stretch for its historical and travel value. Albuquerque has several classic car clubs that date back to when Route 66 was in its heyday that like to cruise the roadway, so it seemed like a good fit.”

In case you were wondering, the highway works by using a series of perfectly placed rumble strips and a mathematical equation. So, it’s like a combination those annoying things on the side of the road that’ll scare you half to death if you drive over them, and a piano.

“The road works by the simplest bit of science, Kennicott says.

“All of the sounds and music notes that we hear in day-to-day life are just vibrations through the air. For instance, anything that vibrates 330 times in one second will produce an E note—a guitar string, a tuning fork or even a tire. To produce an E note with a car, we had to space the rumble strips such that if driven at 45 mph for one second, the car would hit 330 strips.”

He then goes on to explain how math told them where to place the strips and blah blah. What the drive hears depends on the size of the vehicle’s tires as well.

“The width of the tires, what they’re made out of and the ambient noises coming from under the car’s carriage can change the way the song sounds,” Frank Sanchez, operations manager for San Bar Construction Corp. said. “The song sounds different in every single vehicle.”

There are a few other rhythmic roadways around the world including highways in Denmark (called the “Asphaltophone”) and Japan (“Melody Road”). Honda also built one near Lancaster, CA.

Install a highway that plays the entire Pirates of the Caribbean theme song and then I’ll be impressed.

[Smithsonian]

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