Hilly Freeways


From this screenshot from NBC Nightly News, you see a road design that isn’t helping reduce fatalities. This is the Florida Interstate freeway that was the scene of a 200 car pileup that resulted in 70 serious injuries and 10 deaths.
While the sudden loss of visibility was due to motorist speed, thick smoke and nighttime darkness, the hilly freeway itself likely had a role.
Like many freeways in the United States, the road is built on the ground surface and follows the contours of the ground – the rolling hills effect – plus when a man-made obstacle is encountered, the road simply catapults it via a rainbow bridge-shaped overpass. Motorists go down the road at superhighway speeds and bound over these frequent hilly features, encountering briefly short down-road visibility spots throughout the drive, and get used to them. These brief but frequent periods of little information about road conditions a short distance away are especially nerve-wracking at night, but also lull motorists into feeling little initial alarm when the taillights ahead of them disappear, as they usually shortly reappear.
Not all, but most of California’s major freeways are built along berms and trenches. Elevated sections on berms run for two miles then sunken sections in a trench two miles with half-mile long transitions in between. It’s really snazzy. A hill never conceals what’s ahead. Plus, since the road is never at ground level, road noise from the freeway is reduced in the areas along it. The downside is you don’t get to enjoy the roadside sights – like poor neighborhoods that are situated next to freeways. You’re either in a pretty landscaped trench or soaring well above a city below you. The elevated sections provide for remarkable vistas, however.
Hilly freeways work out nicely for ticket “sales” however. The rolling hills are handy for staging speed traps.

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