The Twelve Mile Circle examined freeways and motorways with the most lanes previously. That was a measurement of potential capacity. Would those massively-wide behemoths continue to reign supreme once someone posted actual traffic volumes? That wasn’t the case albeit with one notable exception.
Comparisons weren’t easy although Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) seemed to be a prevailing standard. In simplest terms, "it is the total volume of vehicle traffic of a highway or road for a year divided by 365 days." It can be a tedious exercise comparing values unless one enjoys wading through hundreds of pages of tables or spreadsheets — oftentimes not easily sortable — looking for the highest AADT. I can’t guarantee that I found the absolute highest traffic measurements in the world because I wasn’t that thorough, although I do believe I uncovered many of the more impressive values. Also I had to be careful to double-check that I was looking at AADT, a measurement for a specific point along a specific road, and not other measurements such as the complete traffic volume for the entire road.
Ontario Highway 401′s Busiest Segment
A segment of Ontario Highway 401 (a.k.a., King’s Highway, MacDonald-Cartier Freeway) definitely held the distinction of the highest traffic volume in North America, and possibly the world. I included that qualifier because it was the highest AADT I found anywhere on my own and because numerous sources with much greater knowledge of this subject yielded nothing higher. Maybe there could be a place in a highly-populated corner of Asia so I left the claim with a little asterisk.
The 401 was the notable exception mentioned earlier, appearing on the list for extreme lanes (20-ish) as well as AADT (400,000+). The maximum lanes occurred near Toronto Pearson International Airport while the traffic extreme happened a few kilometres farther east in what used to be the municipality of York, which became part of the City of Toronto in 1998.
Specifically, according to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, the 1.5 km segment of 401 between Highway 400 and Weston Road recorded an AADT of 403,300 vehicles in 2010. If that sounded bad, consider that it was closer to 450k in 2004 and sometimes peaked above 500k.
United States of America
Interstate 405′s Busiest Segment
The United States posted some pretty impressive vehicle totals, too. A table from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration listed Most Traveled Urban Highways for the nation, specifically those with an AADT above 250,000. California utterly dominated the results with six of the top ten busiest roadways.
Top honors went to Interstate 405 in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana metropolitan area. I cross-referenced the FHWA table with data available from the California Department of Transportation’s Traffic Data Branch. The spot on I-405 with the highest AADT in the U.S. seemed to correspond to a segment between Rt. 22 and Seal Beach Blvd., in Seal Beach, California. It ran adjacent to the northern edge of the Naval Weapons Station there. About 377,000 vehicles passed through that brief corridor on an average day in 2008.
My little corner of the world, the Washington, DC metropolitan area, scored "only" 297k on Interstate 95; reaching 16th place. I kept that in mind for context as I explored other urban areas.
M25 Motorway’s Busiest Segment
I saw some impressive claims for the M25, the London Orbital motorway, although I couldn’t find a credible source for an AADT above 200,000. I did uncover a wonderful interactive map for areas throughout the UK and went off on a tangent exploring that for awhile. However I wasn’t about to click on every greatly-traveled road segment just to find the highest value. Rather, I punted and went with Wikipedia’s claim of 196,000 "recorded in 2003 between junctions 13 and 14 near London Heathrow Airport."
There were higher AADT values on continental Europe including 257k for the A4 motorway in Paris, France; 216k for the A 100 in Berlin, Germany; and 200k for the A23 in Vienna, Austria. None of those came anywhere near Canadian or American values so I didn’t pursue them further.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
I couldn’t determine a solid Australian candidate, and offer a challenge to the 12MC audience to help me find it. Sydney seemed to have the requisite population density so I focused there as a proxy. The highest value I found was 157,138 on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. That was all the way back in 2002 so values would have changed in the meantime. Interestingly, the same bridge had higher values a decade earlier (180k-ish). I learned that AADT dropped significantly on the bridge after the Sydney Harbour Tunnel opened in 1992, which seemed logical enough.
Auckland Southern Motorway’s Busiest Segment
I wasn’t searching specifically for New Zealand although I stumbled upon a claim and decided it was significant enough to feature. The segment of Auckland Southern Motorway between Khyber Pass Rd and Gillies Ave was generally considered to have an AADT of about 200,000. My examination of official numbers found a value considerably lower albeit fluctuations were common so it’s possible that the conventional wisdom on the Intertubes came from an earlier time period.
I once climbed to the top of the not-too-impressive highpoint of the District of Columbia, which in fact is subway accessible. I’m all about easy highpointing. The District highpoint is kind-of equivalent to a state highpoint — some lists include it and others do not — so that was a convenient loophole to add another location to my list. I thought about that recently and wondered whether it might be possible to replicate my feat in another nation with a similar capital district.
That required a mashup of two separate lists. There weren’t very many situations like DC although a few were included in Wikipedia’s List of Federal Capitals. I cross-referenced that to the peak lists available on Peakbagger.com. It was sort-of hit or miss since most nations did not have a separate list of state, provincial and/or territorial highpoints. The lists depended upon the good graces of individual contributors to develop them. For example Abuja, Nigeria was a Federal district although nobody posted a list of individual Nigerian states so I couldn’t feature it. I wouldn’t be able to do that for Russia either unless loyal 12MC reader "January First-of-May" just happened to have the highpoint coordinates available for the Federal City of Moscow. I don’t have the data to determine these places on my own.
I found online information about several places though and I’ll list them from lowest to highest elevation.
El Palacio de Aguas Corrientes, Buenos Aires by pandrcutts, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license
The summit of the Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires might be a fair comparison to Washington’s highpoint at a diminutive 38 meters (125 feet) in an urban area. Buenos Aires had a much more impressive water tower, though. The summit was crowned by the impressive Palacio de Aguas Corrientes — the Palace of Flowing Waters — a garish structure that contained a pumping station, water company offices, and even a museum dedicated to water and sanitation. As described by Welcome Argentina,
Down Córdoba Avenue, those who catch a glimpse of this building realize at once that it belongs to another time. Extravagant and ridiculous for some, fascinating for others, the Palacio de Aguas Corrientes… has been a symbol of the pomp of the generation of 1880 and at the same time a key piece for the health of a developing city.
Peakbagger even included an Ascent Trip Report, albeit a bit tongue-in-cheek.
Pico do Roncador
The Distrito Federal in Brazil included Brasília, and of course a highpoint summit which in this instance fell within a rural area of the northwest corner. Various online sources called it Pico do Roncador. Translation software told me that Roncador meant "Snorer." A little digging uncovered a species of fish called Umbrina Roncador or Yellowfin Croaker, and croakers do make a grunting noise that I guess might sound something like snoring (listen).
Was Pico do Roncador named for the fish or was it given the name because it was really boring to the point where it might put someone to sleep? Because I’m thinking the latter. The highpoint fell on a plateau at 1,341 meters (4,400 feet), hardly distinguishable from the surrounding terrain except for the presence of a communications tower visible in the distance on Google Street View.
I felt a little better when I noticed the summit of Bimberi Peak, the highpoint of the Australian Capital Territory. At least it resembled a mountain, and actually a pretty notable one for the area at 1,913 meters (6,276 feet). It’s part of the Brindabella Ranges and straddled the border between ACT and New South Wales in Namadgi National Park. The park’s website claims that the park covered "46 per cent of the Australian Capital Territory" which was an interesting point. Is there any other Federal district covered by national parkland to a greater degree?
Bimberi isn’t supposed to be a particularly technical climb although the peak does extend high enough to make vegetation sparse and it can be covered by snow in the winter.
ajusco en blanco by Señor Lebowski, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license
México won the 12MC award for most extreme federal capital summit, with Cerro Ajusco in the Distrito Federal rising to 3,937 meters (12,917 feet). Like many other mountains nearby, Ajusco had a volcanic origin and was formed as part of a lava dome. One might think the altitude would be daunting however Ajusco may be the most commonly climbed summit in the nation. Why? Because something like 20 million people live within the greater Mexico City metropolitan area, and the heart of the city is only like 40 kilometres away from Parque Nacional Cumbres del Ajusco. Crazy!
Summit Post provided advice to prospective climbers.
… droves of Mexicans flock to its slopes on holidays and on weekends to escape the press of the most populated city on earth… I would suggest the best time to climb Ajusco would be early on a weekday morning so one could enjoy the peak with a degree of tranquility… it should take no more than 2-4 hours (depending on one’s level of fitness) roundtrip to complete.
That’s a little more complicated than the Washington, DC highpoint.
I once searched for and found the Center of the Universe. Never mind that there were plenty of other claimants, I found the one true center naturally because the Intertubes confirmed it and of course that made it unquestionably reliable. It was much more difficult to find the middle of nowhere. First one must discover the exact placement of nowhere and then travel to the middle of it to verify the claim. Unfortunately the great body of Internet knowledge didn’t help much. A bazillion different people asserted that their measurement of nowhere was best despite relying on wild assertions or idiomatic usage. The Twelve Mile Circle took an equally futile stab at it, searching for places literally called "Nowhere."
Success! I found three candidates in three different countries using official geographical databases and national gazetteers. Nowhere could be found in the United States, Canada and Australia. It’s probably located in other nations too and described by different languages (e.g., Nirgendwo, Hvergi, Askund) so I’ll leave that to the 12MC audience.
I discovered arguably the biggest, most significant, most well-known Nowhere in the world in Oklahoma. The USGS Geographic Names Information System located it precisely within the heart of the state and it was very much a populated place. In fact the USGS’ coordinates 35.1592256°, -98.4422802° fell pretty much right in the midst of various structures located therein, offering a solid proxy for the United State’s Middle of Nowhere.
This candidate location even had it’s own Wikipedia entry, albeit a stub, which I’ve reproduced in its entirety:
Nowhere is an unincorporated community in Caddo County, Oklahoma, United States. Nowhere is located at the southeast end of Fort Cobb Reservoir 5.5 miles (8.9 km) south-southwest of Albert and 14 miles (23 km) northwest of Anadarko.
Albert and Anadarko aren’t exactly bustling metropolises (metropoleis?) themselves, lending further credence to the claim.
As if that weren’t sufficient evidence, Nowhere appeared in an episode of Discover Oklahoma. According to the video, a couple from California moved to the area and bought a general store many years ago. The wife complained to the husband, "you brought me here to nowhere" and the name stuck. A dissenting etymology also existed, as I learned in the comments section of that same video. A viewer claimed to be the daughter of the California transplants and noted, "My father came up with the name on a harshly cold winter’s day while standing in the parking lot and no one to see for miles in all directions. He said, ‘we’re in the middle of nowhere’. We all agreed." Either way, Nowhere definitely existed in Oklahoma and it contained an identifiable middle.
USGS suggested several other Nowhere possibilities in the United States including a ridge, a dam, a meadow and several creeks. The Oklahoma village, however, was the only populated place.
Nowhere Island, Ontario
Nowhere Island, Ontario
Then I began to discover truly nowhere places. The only nowhere in Canada — an otherwise vast expanse that should have had plenty of nowhere — was an island in western Ontario. It led to a spot within Rainy Lake near the watery borderlands between Canada and the United States. Fort Frances was the closest Canadian town at about ten kilometres to the southwest, with it’s cross-border cousin International Falls, Minnesota just a klick farther away.
I found no other salient information about Nowhere Island. It was an otherwise nondescript isle on a large lake, along with dozens of other nondescript isles. That made it an excellent candidate. Canada considered the middle of Nowhere, the eponymous island, to be 48.658884°, -93.218204° so that’s what I used.
Nowheres, Western Australia
Nowheres, Western Australia
The Gazetteer of Australia Place Name also narrowed down the possibilities to a reasonable handful, with Nowheres, Western Australia perhaps the best candidate (along with Nowhere Else in Tasmania which actually seemed to be proclaiming itself as somewhere). I wasn’t sure how I felt about that extra "s" appended to Nowhere. After all I wanted to find the Middle of Nowhere not Nowheres if one were to be a stickler. I decided to keep Nowheres on the list because it retained the right spirit. I could envision surfer slang morphing pronunciation over time to reference a place of multiple nowhere; so remote that it became nowhere’s nowhere.
Look closely at Nowheres. The point referenced by the official gazetteer seemed to fall within water, just offshore by about a hundred metres at -33.89215°, 114.984°. This could have happened for a number of reasons including that the coordinates provided by the database were within a margin of error and actually represented placement onshore. Another explanation could be offered by the descriptive code used in the database, LOCU ("Feature Code ‘LOCU’ includes the following features: Locality (unbounded), Place name, Road corner, Road bend, Corner, Meteorological station, Ocean place name, Surfing spot, Junction"). Nowheres could be a beach, a water feature or even a surfing spot
Where is the Middle of Nowhere? It couldn’t be Oklahoma. Readers didn’t actually expect me to select a settlement with its own Wikipedia entry and coverage on YouTube, did they? Canada seemed more reasonable although the conjoined border towns nearby had a combined population of about fifteen thousand residents; hardly nowhere. For pure remoteness, for complete obscurity, for embodying absolute nowhere-ness to the point that a middle became meaningless, the Twelve Mile Circle selected the spot in Australia even with the problematic extra "s."
The middle of nowhere is about three kilometres south of Gracetown, Western Australia.