Call me a skeptic, but really? Highways that sing? Yes, it’s true! The original concept came back in 1995 when two Danish artists invented the Asphaltophone: a series of raised pavement dots spaced apart in varying intervals to create different sounds as a vehicle drives over them at a specific speed.
In other words, orchestrated rumble strips. That annoying thunderous noise you hear when you veer off the road a bit? The bump-bump-bump sound you hear when your vehicle crosses the middle line? Turns out, when constructed in a particular way, rumble strips can actually produce various tones or musical notes as you drive over them. How crazy is that?! Not as crazy as it seems.
A worldly sight… er, sound!
South Korea installed musical rumble strips on its most dangerous highways. The government hoped that the unexpected jolt of music would help distracted motorists pay closer attention. Japan installed a number of singing streets, as well. It’s an attempt to help drivers stick to the posted speed limit. (When driving too slowly or too fast, the music is distorted.)
Musical highways aren’t for everyone. The Dutch government installed musical rumble strips as a way to liven up the journey across the monotonous, flat landscape in a stretch of northern Netherlands. Dutch residents of Jelsum insisted that the newly constructed singing highway passing by their town was a nuisance. They were not able to sleep because of the constant music (Netherlands’ national anthem). The singing road was removed just one week after its installation.
Where are the singing highways in the U.S.?
The United States has two singing highways: one in New Mexico and one in California. California’s musical road is located in Lancaster, on Avenue G between 30th and 40th Street West. It plays the “William Tell Overture.” Sort of. The problem with California’s singing highway is a mathematical error. The spacing of the raised strips was engineered incorrectly. In fact, California removed its first musical roadway in order to correct it. The second attempt? No better than the first. Reason? They followed the same engineering plans used in the first attempt! Oy.
New Mexico got it right, though! Their singing highway was made through a partnership between the New Mexico Department of Transportation and National Geographic in 2014. Where is this marvel? Just outside Tijeras, east of Albuquerque, eastbound on Route 66. And what does it play? “America the Beautiful,” of course! Watch the video below (and make sure your volume is turned up!).