Popular Mechanics Navigates World’s 18 Strangest Roadways

bird's eye view of a car driving down winding roadway

Popular Mechanics has taken an in-depth look at some of the wildest roadways in the world and guides readers through what makes them so strange. The U.S. accounts for nearly half of the roadways that made the list.

From old volcano roads to the steepest hills, certain road construction across the country makes for some interesting travels. This list takes us across the globe to identify unique — and sometimes dangerous — roads.

U.S. Roads Known for Steep Inclines and Curves

  1. Hana Highway in Maui, Hawai’i starts out the list. The coastal road navigates around 600 curves and over 54 bridges in just 52 miles of roadway, according to Popular Mechanics. When you throw in narrow lanes and gorgeous ocean views, it can take some drivers as long as four hours to make it through this stretch of road.
  2. The Cherohala Skyway in North Carolina runs through the Great Smoky Mountains. The byway, which was 35 years in the making, officially opened less than 20 years ago, costing more than $100 million. The two-lane, 50-mile stretch has elevations that range from 900 to 5,400 feet above sea level.
  3. A 414-mile stretch of unpaved road in Livengood, Alaska was built to run parallel to the trans-Alaskan pipeline. The Dalton Highway doesn’t provide the best of conditions for drivers, to say the least. The road has no service stations or restaurants — only forest and mountains. It remains unpaved due to the nightmare that it would be to maintain it in Alaska’s tundra climate.
  4. The twisting, two-mile-long Capulin Volcano Road in New Mexico is without guardrails through most of the route, and it’s so narrow that traffic is stopped when a bus is traveling up or down the volcano. The summit elevation is 8,182 feet, and hikers can follow trails down into the 60,000-year-old crater.
  5. Canton Avenue in Pittsburgh is a cobblestone side street that ascends 37 feet in elevation for every 100 horizontal feet. It rivals Baldwin Street in New Zealand for being the world’s steepest drivable street.
  6. The High Five Interchange in Dallas is a maze of lanes with five levels, solving a traffic problem with more roads instead of wider ones. The vertical interchange is as tall as a 12-story building in some areas and allows an estimated 500,000 commuters to pass through it daily.
  7. For those traveling to San Francisco, Lombard Street is the city’s curvy road tourist attraction. Drivers and pedestrians alike wait in line to take their turns down the winding road. Don’t plan on driving up the hill, though — the street is one-way.

Global Terrain Includes Mountain Passes, Expansive Roads

  1. Italy’s Passo dello Stelvio is a mountain pass in the Italian Alps which starts at an elevation of 3,115 feet and climbs to just shy of 9,050 feet.
  2. The Guoliang Tunnel in Hunan, China was chiseled by hand in the 1970s. The road is a thrilling and occasionally treacherous one, with a section of the tunnel passing through the Taihang Mountains, with makeshift windows offering terrifying views. Its clearance is only 15 feet with a width of 12 feet.
  3. In Brasilia, Brazil, the Monumental Axis is the name for the expressway that runs southeast and northwest through Brazil’s capital city. What has been described as the world’s largest median separates the twelve lanes of eastbound and westbound roads.  The open median space can be used for big events and activities, all right in the middle of the expressway.
  4. A Norwegian tongue twister of a road, the Atlanterhavsveien, is better known as the more pronounceable Atlantic Road. Its 5.4-mile stretch travels over eight different islands via eight small bridges.
  5. The Magic Roundabout in England features a confusing design, to say the least. Five smaller roundabouts direct traffic clockwise while vehicles travel counterclockwise around the inner circle. According to one of the roundabout’s engineers, in the beginning, the design allowed for 1,100 additional cars to pass through per hour.
  6. The simply named Highway 1 in Iceland forms a roughly 830-mile-long loop around the entire island nation. The road has only one lane each direction, but it is tourist-friendly, passing by many of Iceland’s major landmarks.
  7. Yungas Road in Bolivia has a more aptly-named title due to its high elevation and narrow spans: the “Road of Death.” There are 2,000-foot drops alongside the road, and it is as narrow as 10 feet at times.
  8. Karakoram Highway in Pakistan stretches for 800 miles, linking Pakistan and China. The road passes through the Karakoram, Pamir and Himalaya mountains. During its construction, 810 Pakistani and 82 Chinese workers were killed due to the danger of the mountain passes.
  9. Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires has eight lanes of traffic running in each direction at its widest points. The road is just shy of 460 feet wide when combined with the side streets that carry two or more lanes of additional traffic. The avenue was modeled after the Champs-Elysees in France.
  10. The Trollstigen in Norway translates to “Troll Ladder.” It is a scenic road with a view of the Stigfossen waterfall running down the side of a mountain. But the road itself leads drivers 2,800 feet above sea level and around 11 narrow turns. It is closed for portions of the year due to the area’s rough winters.
  11. The Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road in Canada appeared on the History Channel’s Ice Road Truckers. The road of ice isn’t really a road at all, but rather interconnected frozen lakes forming a lane. The route is monitored by crews who, at times, endure temperatures that drop to -70 degrees. The road is used to haul freight to Canada’s diamond mines.

Strange Road Designs Call For Increased Highway Safety

The concepts behind these strange roads are fascinating, but not always safe. Road designs such as these can easily lead to accidents. The rules of the road can become murky when up against the unorthodox patterns of some of these roadways.

Highway safety and rules of the road are important no matter what the road conditions. If you or a loved one has been involved in a trucking accident, contact the Truck Accident Attorneys today to discuss your legal options. You may be eligible for compensation. A consultation is free with no obligation.

Photo Credit: Popular Mechanics

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