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
View Larger Map
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
View Larger Map
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
View Larger Map
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.
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
View Larger Map
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
View Larger Map
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
Exibir mapa ampliado
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.
Gephyrophobia is a fear of bridges. People who experience this anxiety are gephyrophobiacs. I’ve known people with this fear to varying degrees although I didn’t realize it had an actual name until recently. I noticed a search engine query on the Twelve Mile Circle from someone who appeared to be a gephyrophobiac. The person was searching for an automobile route from Mississippi to Michigan that avoided bridges.
Unfortunately that’s an impossible task in a motor vehicle. Potentially, if one had access to a ship, one could cruise down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico, swing around Florida, head up the Atlantic coastline, enter the St. Lawrence Seaway and proceed through the Great Lakes. That would avoid bridges although I wonder if transiting through canal locks might produce similar anxieties. Perhaps airline travel might be a possibility. However they didn’t ask about that. Maybe it’s too expensive. Let’s assume that neither of those are an option for whatever reason and the person truly wishes to travel by automobile.
The best I can do, once again assuming a motorized vehicle is the only possibility, is to search for a path that at least minimizes bridge crossings. Arbitrarily, I decided on bridge lengths of 1,000 feet (305 metres) or less primarily because it was a nice, round number. I also figured it was short enough for an anxious person to grab the steering wheel with both hands, grin-and-bear-it, and power through for ten or fifteen seconds until reaching the other side.
I also had to determine starting and ending points for the route. The query mentioned Mississippi and Michigan so I selected their respective state capitals, Jackson and Lansing.
View Larger Map
The trick was to find a route that swung around the Mississippi River drainage basin. Specifically it needed to hug the southern edge of the Tennessee River basin and the eastern edge of the Ohio River basin. It’s impossible to plot a driving route exactly along the watershed divide because it follows mountain ridges for much of its length. I kept as close as practical without worrying about it too much. I figured the route would cross rivers near their sources where they would still be small and manageable.
My gephyrophobia-reducing (not eliminating) solution would cover 1,721 miles (2,770 kilometers) over 31 hours, versus a more direct route of 932 miles (1,500 km) over 15 hours (map). The penalty one pays for major bridge avoidance is basically a doubling of time and distance.
I’m certain I could produce a better route with even fewer and smaller river crossings. It would be gloriously inefficient.
View Larger Map
I do sympathize with people who experience Gephyrophobia. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to cross the Mackinac Bridge on Interstate 75 between Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas, as an example. I’ve driven that bridge and others like it before and I can see why it would create anxiety for lots of drivers.
View Larger Map
The New York times featured this situation a few years ago in, "To Gephyrophobiacs, Bridges Are a Terror.". One anecdote in particular stuck out in my mind.
Mrs. Steers’s phobia was so severe that she was virtually trapped on Staten Island for 13 years. She missed her brother’s wedding in Brooklyn. She sent her husband and two children off on family vacations without her. She had never seen her sister’s house at the Jersey Shore.
Staten Island covers only 58 square miles (152 km2). Certainly, it’s both larger and better appointed than a prison island like Alcatraz. Nonetheless Gephyrophobia turned it into a prison of another sort. This seemed to be a rather extreme instance since the Staten Island Ferry apparently wasn’t a possibility either. It demonstrates how disabling Gephyrophobia can become in its extreme forms.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if Google Maps included a Gephyrophobia button to generated driving directions that avoided bridges?
Longtime reader James S. has an interesting experience every time he drives along Interstate 75 between Georgia and Florida. There is a spot along that highway where one can observe two county entrance markers simultaneously.
Take a close look at the Google Street View image and the signs can be seen as blurry white lettering on a green background, one nearby and one on the horizon.
View Larger Map
Someone traveling north on I-75 heading towards Macon will leave Peach County, cross into Crawford County, and somewhere between 770-800 feet later cross into Bibb County. James wanted to know if there were other places where one could see two “entering” signs simultaneously.
I love the way they managed to post that billboard within the narrow band, too. Crawford successfully attained a little tax revenue from their tiny chunk of Interstate Highway.
Seriously, is there any reason that little neck of Crawford actually needs to exist? It doesn’t seem to serve any purpose, yet Georgia has an overdose of small, misshapen counties like this one. I experienced a similar situation on I-20 earlier this year when I clipped Walton County, Georgia. That was nowhere near as remarkable as James’ accomplishment however, as my trip through Walton lasted closer to 7,800 feet.
Let me pause momentarily for a small rant. I don’t like how the new Mapquest handles embedded maps, the only viable option when I wish to feature a geo-oddity involving county lines. These are the steps: first one has to specify a location rather than perform a simple drill-down task; then hunt for the option hidden behind the “Send To” button and the “Your Website” tab. Mapquest will finally generate a code but it doesn’t provide any preview or customization function. I had to drop it into my website, make a best guess and then adjust the code from within my blog by hand. That’s unbelievably inconvenient and unresponsive.
Plus, embedded Mapquest images don’t appear in Google Reader. If you don’t see bunch of maps and you want to understand what I’m talking about, you’ll need to leave Reader and come to the website.
But let’s get back on track and consider James’ question. I turned to the excellent Mob Rule website that caters to the County Counter community. The site provides a page called "Difficult Questions" that attempts to determine whether certain major roads touch specific counties or not. There I found some really interesting situations.
Drivers heading northbound on U.S. Route 19 through Fanning Springs, Florida will enter Gilchrist County, but drivers heading south will not. The county border splits this mile-long road segment down the middle.
Do travelers on Interstate 294 outside of Chicago, Illinois enter DuPage County? No, they don’t. However, those heading southbound on I-294 who then exit eastbound onto I-290 will clip DuPage County for maybe five hundred feet.
There is a stretch of Interstate 80 in Nevada that rivals the Georgia example but falls just a bit short. Heading east, travelers go from Washoe, to Storey, to Lyon county in a distance of about a half-mile.
West Virginia has a section of Interstate 79 that cuts a corner of Gilmer County for less than a hundred feet. Just to the west, however, there’s another section of Gilmer that one enters for several hundred feet.
There are plenty of other examples on the Mob Rule page and I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t check them all. If I’d had time to do that, then perhaps I’d have seen better examples than the one James discovered during his travels. With that admission, I don’t know of other instances on Interstate Highways or major (two digit) U.S. Highways with shorter distances between three counties. Sure, I bet we could find some back-country road, but a highway?
How about it, folks? Is James onto something? Are there equally remarkable instances (other than the one in Washington, DC)? What about international examples?
Thanks again for the tip, James.
James is working on a new website. He says it’s still under development so I plan to bookmark it and examine it again later.