Pick a Lane. Any Lane

On February 21, 2013 · 4 Comments

Roads. I’ve been thinking about roads a lot lately. I’m not sure how that morphed into a search for the road with the most lanes, but that’s where it ended this evening.

San Diego, California, USA



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Lots of other people have wondered the same thing, apparently. That allowed me to cherry-pick various lists and collections for many of the better examples. The king of the Interstates appeared to be a stretch of I-5 near San Diego, California, between I-805 and California Highway 56. I counted 21 lanes, including through lanes, local lanes, and exit lanes. I would be more impressed if all of the lanes traveling in a single direction weren’t separated by a barrier. Then it would be a massive 10 or 11 lanes across that one could slalom amongst unfettered.

I’ve driven through here before. I think that anyone who’s experienced this stretch or any of the others mentioned elsewhere below in person deserves a special badge of honor for courage or maybe foolishness — definitely some kind of badge.


Atlanta, Georgia, USA



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Atlanta’s "Downtown Connector," a concurrency of Interstates 75 and 85 has many fewer lanes, a mere 15. Why would I feature that? Because these are pure, contiguous lanes without separation into feeder lanes, exit lanes, or local lanes. It’s one big mass of roadway in either direction without obstruction. I’ll note, since someone is bound to mention it, that the inside lanes are painted with white diamonds. Those are High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes, in this case HOV-2, restricting automobile traffic to those with two or more occupants to encourage carpooling. Nonetheless, no physical barrier separates the HOV lanes from the regular lanes. Presumably if a driver had a passenger or if someone was riding a motorcycle, or if someone simply wanted to take his or her chances with the law, every single lane would be accessible.

The Federal Highway Administration considers this Atlanta location to have the most lanes available in the United States. They don’t count extraneous factors that lead to larger numbers like the San Diego example. I guess it depends on one’s tolerance. Is it acceptable to count all of the lanes if they’re separated into distinct traffic streams, or must they all be accessible to every vehicle going in a common direction?

I’ve driven this one, too. Another badge? I need to collect them all up-front because I’ve not driven the others.


Mississauga, Ontario, Canada



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Some may say Mississauga, I’ll say Greater Toronto Area, specifically within the vicinity of Toronto Pearson International Airport. This beastly little stretch of Highway 401, the MacDonald-Cartier Freeway just south of the airport, seems to have 20-ish lanes depending on how one counts them.


Freeway Overload
SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
A few miles further east on 401 with only 17 lanes, but you get the point.

This area includes a variety of different lane types. I can see express lanes in the middle, another set of lanes that are handling traffic arriving from or destined to other highways, and a couple of exit lanes.


Greater Manchester, England



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It’s not only the North Americans that can dream up these nightmarish occurrences. The United Kingdom seems proficient too. Manchester was mentioned frequently by people online so I took a closer look on Google Maps. I’m not sure I found the absolute best example there although I found a reasonably good one, with 17-ish lanes on the Manchester Ring Motorway. I’m not really happy with this example because of the obvious gaps between traffic streams (does the width of the separations matter?). Maybe someone can find a better one.


Sydney, New South Wales, Australia



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There’s something for everybody on 12MC today. Australia gets in on the action with Sydney’s Warringah Freeway. I counted 18 or 19 lanes. It’s hard to tell. This freeway also includes lanes marked with red pavement, at least a couple of which were reserved for buses, which was a twist I hadn’t noticed on the other examples.


São Paulo, Brazil



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Finally, I turned my attention to South America. The best example I could find was in São Paulo, Brazil on the Vinte e Três de Maio (May 23rd Highway). The date refers to the beginning of the Paulista War (aka the Constitutionalist Revolution), an uprising sparked by the shooting of five student protestors on May 23, 1932. This marked São Paulo standing up for itself. It is memorialized today on various roads and civic structures including this one.

On February 21, 2013 · 4 Comments

4 Responses to “Pick a Lane. Any Lane”

  1. Michael says:

    As an Atlantan, it’s surprising the government would say the connector is widest, when’s there’s a stretch just a few miles away that’s wider. Check out I-75 just north of Windy Hill Rd (northwest, a little outside “The Perimeter” I-285) I count 9 northbound lanes, 8 southbound.

  2. wangi says:

    Katy Freeway in Houston?
    http://goo.gl/maps/M5lWC 26 lanes I think… But mixed between main lanes, frontage, and a toll road in the middle!

  3. Jasper says:

    Have you thought about the Springfield interchange?

    https://maps.google.com/maps?q=springfield,+va&ll=38.786878,-77.177861&spn=0.002613,0.004619&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-a&hnear=Springfield,+Fairfax,+Virginia&gl=us&t=h&z=18

    That’s a lot of lanes there.

    I-95 near Newark Airport is huge as well.

  4. Joe says:

    Best I knew of was from the following video in LA…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_JWe4AVsfg

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