What Happened to the Musical Highway?

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View of route 333 also known as the musical highway

Highways can make some interesting noises as you drive. The sound is typically a mixture between the condition or texture of the road and how fast you’re traveling.

If you’ve been going for hours listening to the road noise, a stretch of smooth pavement can be music to your ears. However, if you travel the Musical Highway, you can hear a familiar tune.

Today, we’ll share how one American highway once sang a unique tune for drivers. Let’s get started!

How Do Musical Highways Work?

Musical highways use specially-designed rumble strips to cause a vibration and audible rumbling between the tires and the road’s surface.

These unique rumble strips use steel bars they space at specific distances. 

The result is a song or tune that the passengers inside the vehicle and the surrounding area can hear.

However, precision is essential when placing these bars, as an error of 5 mm can cause a completely different tone. Drivers also must do their part and drive a specific speed, typically the speed limit.

Where Is the Musical Highway? 

The most famous Musical Highway is in Tijeras, New Mexico. The city of Tijeras is approximately 20 minutes east of Albuquerque.

Drivers going eastbound on Route 333, a part of the old Route 66 highway system, used to hear the sounds of “America the Beautiful” by driving over the lane at 45 miles per hour.

It was a draw for tourists and became a unique landmark in the area.

A route 66 sign on the highway, which is apart of the musical highway

Who Constructed the Highway?

In October 2014, workers completed the Musical Highway between Miles 4 and 5 on New Mexico 333.

The National Geographic Society funded the project, a coordinated effort with the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

The two entities hoped the highway would encourage drivers to slow down along a rather dull stretch of road where it’s easy to speed.

They also expected the route would provide a bit of excitement and draw people into the local communities.

Keep in Mind: Have you driven the most dangerous Highway in the US? Click the link to find out!

View of a musical road ahead sign on the musical highway
Source: National Geographic

What Happened to the Musical Highway?

While the Musical Highway was an exciting addition to the side of New Mexico 333, it’s sadly no longer the same.

Reports date to 2020 of people complaining about the Musical Highway needing repair. However, the New Mexico Department of Transportation had zero intentions of making any repairs. 

There are still small sections of the highway that remain, mainly at the start of the project.

However, officials removed the signs indicating the beginning and end of the road. You may not hear the entire song, but you can still enjoy a portion of it.

Will the Highway Sing Again?

All good things must eventually come to an end. Sadly, the Musical Highway appears to be slowly fading like a New Mexico sunset.

You can still enjoy what remains of the highway, but it’s nowhere near as grand or exciting as it was during its debut.

Kimberly Gallegos, a spokesperson for the department, said, “there are no plans to restore the musical highway.

The cost is outrageous, and they have since restored portions of the roadway and removed all of the signs.

Unfortunately, this was part of a previous administration and never set in stone to keep up with the maintenance of this singing highway.”

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Are There Other Musical Highways?

While you can’t enjoy the Musical Highway in New Mexico, several other musical highways exist. However, they’ll take more effort to get to if you’re in the United States.

They’re in Denmark, Hungary, Japan, South Korea, China, Iran, Taiwan, and Indonesia. If you’re looking for an excuse to travel to any of these locations, now you have one!

There is one notable musical highway that still exists in the United States. You can find War Eagle Road near the Auburn University campus.

When you drive over a portion of the highway at 35 miles per hour, the road will hum the Auburn University fight song. 

War Eagle Road was the brainchild of Tim Arnold, a former engineering student at Auburn University. He said, “I think the road really enhances the Auburn experience.

If someone needs a boost of Auburn spirit, all they have to do is drive down Donahue towards campus.” Arnold got some vital university faculty onboard with the idea in 2017.

He put a tremendous amount of energy into the project and combined his efforts with the university’s engineering school.

Close up of the musical highway
Source: Atlas Obscura

The Musical Highway Had Its Final Curtain Call 

Unfortunately, New Mexico’s Musical Highway may have had its final curtain call.

It was fun while it lasted, and countless people driving across Central New Mexico had fun memories.

Hopefully, it will inspire other cities and universities to think outside the box and create new musical highways. You never know where a musical highway could pop up near you! 

What tune would you want a highway to play where you live?

1 comment
  1. The NM singing road is still functional. It is true, that the state took down the signs. However, the rumble strips are still there and still produce “America the Beautiful” song. The part that “got paved over” is at the end. That section was installed for the co-sponsor “Nationwide is on your side” for filming only.

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