By chance, we happened to stumble upon a real treat on YouTube. Cutting right to the chase, we found a video of what many people call “The Musical Road” near Tijeras, New Mexico. As luck would have it, the musical road, which was paid for by the National Geographic Channel, plays the song America The Beautiful, but only if you drive over the strips exactly at the legal speed limit of 45 mph.
While many drivers are familiar with this rhythmic construction, others (like us) are not aware of the sections of road, when driven over, causes a vibration and audible tune transmitted through the vehicles’ wheels, into the car body where the tune can be heard by the occupants.
Directions To The Musical Road In Tijeras, New Mexico
Address: Route 66, Tijeras, New Mexico.
Take the I-40 exit 170, drive east about 3.5 miles on Hwy 333 (Route 66). Look for the Musical Road signs between mileposts 4 and 5. This is shortly after Route 66 crosses to the south side of I-40. The road is only musical driving eastbound.
There have been musical roads in at least six different countries, including Denmark, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Mexico, and San Marino.
The first road construction that was built to purposefully make music when driven over was created in October of 1995 in Denmark. Called the Asphaltophone, the musical instrument was designed as a series of pavement markers comparable to the Bott’s dots used on many roads today. These dots were spaced out at different intervals to create the vibrations that are heard inside the car.
Some drivers report that the rumble strip is easy to miss but when you align your wheels correctly, it is fun to hear the small clip of the song.
In addition to the musical road in New Mexico, these melody roads have become popular in countries like Japan and South Korea. Photo from KOKO on Twitter
Japan’s Melody Roads
Shizuo Shinoda is credited with inventing the melody roads in Japan when he accidentally imparted some cuts into a road with a bulldozer. Upon driving over the road cuts, he realized that it was possible to make tunes based on the depth and spacing of these grooves.
The Hokkaido National Industrial Research Institute got involved in 2007, refining Shinoda’s designs by using the same concept of cutting grooves into the road surface. They found that moving the grooves closer together created a higher pitch, while moving the grooves further apart made a lower pitch vibration.
There are reportedly over 3o musical roads in Japan, with 4 in the island of Hokkaido and 10 others in the Gunma prefectures. Three of the melody roads produce a popular Japanese ballad made popular by Kyu Sakamoto, the singer that made the Sukiyaki Song popular in the U.S.
Another of these amazing melody roads that consists of 2,559 grooves cut into a 175 m stretch of existing roadway and produces a tune from the song Memories of Summer.
South Korea’s Singing Road
The singing road in South Korea can be found near Anyang in Gyeonggi. This music road was created similar to Japan’s melody roads with grooves cut into the road surface. Japan’s melody roads were created to attract tourists but the South Korea singing highway was intended to help drivers stay alert and awake.
Drivers dozing off or not alert are said to cause 68 percent of the traffic accidents in South Korea. The singing road, which only took four days to construct, was intended to help drivers stay alert and prevent speeding. Counting sheep is one method used by many restless folks to help them fall asleep. Ironically, the tune used to keep drivers alert on the singing road is Mary Had A Little Lamb.
The Failed Musical Road And Its Return
Built on Avenue K in Lancaster, California, the American Honda Motor Company sponsored project opened in the summer of 2008 as a tourist attraction. It was an immediate success with thousands of visitors coming to see the musical road. Even the local residents liked the odd attraction.
As more and more visitors came to drive over the quarter-mile sound creating road, the local residents began to complain about the noise and traffic related problems. The grooves cut into the pavement replicated the Finale of the William Tell Overture, which many people grew up listening to as the theme from the Lone Ranger TV show.
Despite the huge popularity of the musical road, residents experiencing long sleepless nights due to the Lone Ranger serenade at all hours, demanded that the city have the grooves removed. The road was ground down and paved over on September 23 of 2008, the day the music died.
After additional complaints from city residents about the music’s removal, work began to re-create it on 15 October, 2008. The relocation was set for Avenue G, between 30th Street West and 40th Street West, further away from the residential areas.
This section of road is now named after the Honda Civic automobile, and has appeared in Honda commercials for the Civic. All’s well that ends well.