This “Singing Highway” Plays Music (If You Follow the Speed Limit)

A trip down this road is officially on our bucket list!

route 66AntonSokolov/Shutterstock

In terms of famous roads, it’s all but impossible to top Route 66. The two-and-a-half-thousand-mile highway stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles has earned its place in the history books, with songs and even a TV show named after it. But even on this most famous of roads, there’s one stretch that stands out. That’s because it plays music.

In 2014, the New Mexico Department of Transportation teamed up with National Geographic to create this unique landmark. They chose a 490-yard stretch of Route 66 (about a quarter of a mile) located in New Mexico, between mile markers 4 and 5 as you travel east between the cities of Albuquerque and Tijeras. A group of engineers at San Bar Construction Corp. installed rumble strips in the road, similar to the type that jar your car if you veer out of your lane. These strips, however, do something much more pleasant. They cause cars driving over them to vibrate, producing sounds with a certain pitch. Those sounds combine to form a recognizable tune: the chorus of the patriotic hit “America the Beautiful.”

And the best part is, you don’t even have to strain to hear it. The song is pretty clearly audible. The one thing you do have to do? Drive the speed limit. The song will only be recognizable if your car hits the rumble strips going 45 miles per hour. And there’s a reason for this. In addition to being a cool landmark, the singing highway has another purpose: curbing speeding. National Geographic pitched the idea as part of its series “Crowd Control,” which looks at experiments exploring the habits of the masses (such as speeding) and whether they can be altered.

And don’t worry about missing this experience. Signs next to the road let drivers know when the stretch is coming up, reading “Musical Road Ahead” and “Reduce to 45 mph…to hear the song.” Once you reach the stretch itself, you’ll be able to see white music notes painted on the road.

Not sure you can make the trek to New Mexico (or just want a preview)? Check out the video of the song below. Then, learn about some other must-see spots on Route 66.

[Sources: Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine]

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Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.