Musical Roads: 5 Places Where the Streets Sing
You’re probably familiar with rumble strips, those grooves on roads that make a loud, obnoxious noise when a car crosses them. Shoulder and centerline strips are placed to alert drivers that they’re getting too close to the edge of their lanes, while transverse strips typically cross the entire road and are used to signal that drivers should slow down.
In most cases, rumble strips are anything but pleasant to the ear—but a few enterprising individuals realized that it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, varying the length and distance of the grooves can allow cars to create melodies on the road. Here a few places where you can find harmonious highways.
The road-as-an-instrument concept was invented in 1995 when two Danish artists came up with the “Asphaltophone,” raised pavement markers that are more closely related to Botts’ dots than rumble strips.
See it in action just after the 1:30 mark:
2. NEW MEXICO
Transportation officials in New Mexico hope that “America the Beautiful” will get cars to slow down on a section of historic Route 66 between Albuquerque and Tijeras. To hear the song at the proper speed and pitch, vehicles must strictly obey the posted speed limit of 45 mph. Drivers are unable to hear the song if they are going even a few miles under or over the limit.
The only other musical road in the U.S. can be found in Lancaster, California, where a snippet of the "William Tell Overture” plays for drivers going 55 mph. (Sorry, Sammy Hagar.) The attraction was originally installed near a residential area, but citizens complained so much that the grooves were paved over just two weeks after they were installed. The city received hundreds of phone calls from people who missed The Lone Ranger theme song and eventually agreed to reinstall the strips in an industrial area where it wouldn’t bother residents. If you listen to the clip below and think, “Hmm, something is a little off here...” you’re absolutely right.
Japan embraced a number of singing streets after engineer Shizuo Shinoda accidentally scraped a road with a bulldozer and realized that the resulting grooves made interesting sounds. There are now several melody roads in Japan, including this one near Mt. Fuji.
5. SOUTH KOREA
Nearly 70 percent of highway accidents in South Korea are caused by distracted or dozing drivers, so the Korean Highway Corp. has installed musical grooves in particularly dangerous stretches of road in an attempt to get motorists to pay attention. Here’s one of the songs, which you’ll recognize as a slightly off-tune version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”