Most rumble strips alert drivers they’ve strayed too close to the edge of the road with a loud, grating vibration. The grooved lines on a sleepy stretch of Route 66 near Tijeras, New Mexico have a different trick up their sleeve: They sing.
On this quarter-mile section of the highway, the rumble strips have been engineered to sound like the song “America the Beautiful.” But they won’t croon their patriotic tune for anyone with a lead foot. Drivers have to be going exactly 45 miles per hour (the speed limit) to hear the vibrations in action.
The “Musical Highway” was installed in 2014 as part of a partnership between the New Mexico Department of Transportation and the National Geographic Channel. It’s designed to encourage drivers on the otherwise unremarkable stretch of the historic road to slow down and adhere to the speed limit.
Getting the rumble strips to serenade travelers required a fair bit of engineering. The individual strips had to be placed at the precise distance from one another to produce the notes they needed to sing their now-signature song.
People reacted favorably to the rumbling roadside concert. Some drivers even double back for a second shot at making the highway sing, if they somehow missed it on their first pass or found themselves traveling a bit too fast or slow. However, some say the song has gotten a bit out of tune in the years since the rumble strips were installed. Update as of June 2020: New asphalt and removed signs means it is harder to stay on the rumble strip these days.
Update as of May 2022: The signs have all been removed and the song does not play in its entirety.
Know Before You Go
The "Musical Highway" is eastbound on Route 333 (part of the old Route 66 system) between mile markers 4 and 5, near exit 170.