Until a road reaches such behemoth proportions astronauts can see it from space, it does not attract a great deal of attention. “Long,” “bizarre,” and “dangerous,” invite all kinds of discussion; “wide,” not so much, searching for wide roads, after you exhaust the relatively short list of contenders for the world’s widest road, your choices narrow considerably. Road-weary researchers typically come to a dead-end, realizing a person can take these questions too literally. Sometimes, imagination must pick-up where geography hits a barricade. Therefore, combining both literal and figurative measures of highway span, this list offers the ten best answers to the nearly impossible question, “What are the world’s ten widest roads?”
1. The Road to Perdition, slough of despond
Well-paved with good intentions, the Road to Perdition stretches exactly as wide as peak traffic demands. Like the Autobahn in Germany, the Road to Perdition has no speed limits, and legend holds that James Dean and Steve McQueen still drag race along one especially smooth and straight stretch.
2. El Toro Y, Interstate 5 meets Interstate 405, Orange County California, USA
Bigger than many American small towns, the El Toro Y covers nearly two square miles with solid concrete. At its widest point, the “Y” stretches 26 lanes wide, not counting frontage and access roads. In addition to ranking high among the world’s widest roads, the El Toro Y also comes close to the top of the list for world’s busiest roads—every day, nearly 400,000 cars grind through the interchange.
3. Monumental Axis, Brazil
Arguably the world’s most spectacular expanse of public thoroughfare, nicely manicured and very well groomed, the Monumental Axis, according to legend, accommodates 160 cars side-by-side. At least a dozen reputable sources repeat this claim, but none has pictures or expert eyewitnesses. Canadians disqualify the Monumental Axis’s claims to #1, alleging that all previous measures unfairly have included the admittedly capacious median strip; proud Brazilians shrug-off these allegations.
4. Highway 401, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Loyal Canadians crowd geography sites, fervently arguing that their big road ought to top the list of the world’s widest roads. Very technically, they make their case, but reputation and legend dictate the outcome of this competition. For the record, Highway 401 sports twenty-two Canadian-sized lanes, and several authoritative sources give 401 the distinction of “widest highway in North America”—the equivalent of a silver medal.
5. Interstate 75,north of Atlanta, Georgia, USA
More testimony to Americans’ love of their cars and highways, I75 features 15 contiguous multi-purpose lanes, and builders are adding a four-lane trucks-only tollway, plus an additional four-lane by-pass exclusively for high-occupancy vehicles. When “they” finish construction, the highway will stretch 23 lanes wide, matching other entries on the list, but beating them in strict measure by 6 to 10 feet.
6. Interstate 95, East Coast, USA
In addition to its genuine qualification among the world’s widest roads, I95 has gained considerable notoriety among African-American motorists, frequently detained by state troopers who suspect them of “driving while black.” In New Jersey, Interstate 95 stretches to twenty-three lanes wide, and two monumental bridges carry I95 traffic north and south at one major crossing: The Alfred E. Driscoll Bridge spans twelve lanes, and its partner, the Edison Bridge stretches across another 12 lanes.
7. The Road Less Traveled, Xanadu to Oz
Ironically, the poet created a monster, striking a chord that resonates in youthful hearts everywhere. Peripatetic young adventurers crowd the Road Less Travelled during the rush hours—ages 18 and 21, eschewing traditional values, uniforms, and confinement, seeking to carve their own paths in the wilderness and niches in the social hierarchy. The road stretches wide enough to accommodate legions of idealists, visionaries, and rebels, some of whom actually reach their destinations.
8. Interstate 5, at connector with I805, San Diego, USA
Two major north-south arteries connect here, and highway architects have widened “the merge” four times in fifteen years. Southbound, 14 lanes split traffic between I5, which continues southwest to downtown San Diego and the beaches, and I805, which goes straight south to the Border Crossing at Otay Mesa. Northbound, 13 lanes carry all traffic, sadly, toward Los Angeles.
9. Historic Route 66, Chicago to Los Angeles, USA
In some places, the literal Route 66 stretched half a mile wide if you allowed for shoulders and median strips, but the genuine measure of the great highway’s width comes from calculation of the space it occupies in the American imagination. Route 66 made its literary debut in The Grapes of Wrath , gaining status in Kerouac’s On the Road. In the 1960’s, Route 66 starred in a popular television show, which also featured a Chevrolet Corvette. Most recently, it reprised its role as America’s diamond lane to destiny, providing the background for Disney’s hit Cars.
10. A 682, Lancashire, Great Britain
Just wide enough to qualify as Great Britain’s most dangerous highway, A682’s breadth is determined by how far your vision must scan from right to left and back again, keeping a sharp look-out for hazards. Bridges, viaducts, and landscaping frequently conceal entrances, and many of the highway’s sharpest curves dip like little roller coasters right at their centers. Lorries frequently will line-up two or three abreast, and motorists do not frequently enjoy the luxury of room to pass; farm traffic often adds local color to these little tangles. Surprisingly, though, everyday A682 motorists consider its challenge to their peripheral vision as part of the highway’s charm.