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highway spaghetti

February 19th, 2010 | 4 Comments

I spent my teenager years living in Pasadena, Texas, a suburb of Houston. We moved there from Little Rock when I was eleven, and the first “fact” I remember was that the highest point in Houston was an overpass. This may have been a joke (my stepfather was full of these kinds of things) but judging from these overpasses, not too much of one. There are several places in Houston that my mom called “spaghetti bowls” where several directions and lanes from several intersecting freeways merge and connect. These are from Google Maps.

As a kid, these fascinated me. As a teenager and young adult trying to drive on them (as well as the ones in Dallas), they infuriated me, and now as an adult who drives mainly in Philadelphia and New Jersey, where they have other kids of bizarre transportation issues, they fascinate me again.

You can see a pretty strong inspiration from these highway intersections in my puzzle that was published by Mudpuppy a few weeks ago, and now I’m working on a big book about cars and trucks and other forms of transportation (yes yes, again, mais pas en Francais!) and I’ve been collecting photographs for reference. I spent a chunk of time this morning looking on Flickr for good overpass/highway pictures and I just want to share. So many amazing things.

kumiyama JCT

kumiyama JCTcredit: mozu-guzu on Flickr.

overpasscredit: k n u l p on Flickr.

Austin Highway 1credit: Billy Jack O’Toole on Flickr.

Daikoku Junctioncredit: kokix on Flickr.

credit: TKNK. on Flickr.

HighFiveLookingTowardsSouthEastcredit: paul.derry on Flickr.

Hakozaki JCT 箱崎ジャンクションcredit: sinkdd on Flickr.

Highway Junctioncredit: sqzg on Flickr.

DSC_4551.JPGcredit: U3K-Y on Flickr.

Above I-280 and Hwy 87, San Jose, Santa Clara County, Californiacredit: cocoi_m on Flickr.

credit: changezi on Flickr.

I10-610credit: scottapeshot vis Google Maps on Flickr.

downtowncredit: scottapeshot vis Google Maps on Flickr. This is the “spaghetti bowl” I write about above. Thanks Scott.

interchange 101 @ 280/680credit: cjw333 on Flickr.

And one of my own taken from a bus in New York City:

spaghetti highway


  1. I loved these intersections, too — the more unplanned, the better. No consideration of the illustrative possibilities would be complete without mention of “The Zax” by Dr Seuss. That’s the one in which the North- and South-going Zaxes cross paths and are so freaking stubborn that an entire burgeoning motorway has to be built around them. Such a great story.

  2. Mike Rhode says:

    They’re building crazy ones for I-95 now too – Baltimore got some soaring ones when they build the Ft McHenry tunnel almost 2 decades ago, and now DC’s getting them to straighten out the “mixing bowl” where 95 and 495 meet.

    BTW, the cloverleaf was invented in NJ.

  3. You might dig this book. Thought of you, and this thread, when I read the review in today’s Sunday Times, by William T. Vollmann (the review, not the book):

  4. Erin says:

    It’s actually quite interesting what Texas is doing with new overpasses (I think they have been doing this for about 10 years now). The new overpasses are being designed with a certain look in mind. Some of the new ones in Dallas have hued concrete in earth reds and greens with stars (for Texas of course) and the new ones in Austin resemble longhorn heads w/horns as the support system just under the road which goes nicely with the University in that town. I’m not sure of what the overpasses look like in other large areas in Texas, but from what I’ve seen, they are actually nice to look at… as far as overpasses go.

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