A road across the Bering Strait and an interplanetary gravitational highway are just two of the wild "Highways of Tomorrow" proposed by futurists. With the help of Jalopnik readers, we looked past the hype and picked out these ten mind-blowing highway designs of tomorrow.
Welcome back to Answers of the Day — our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!
10.) The Lindenthal Bridge over the Hudson River
Suggested By: Bonhomme7h
Why it's unthinkable: New Yorker planners, particularly the master builder of modern NYC, Robert Moses, used to be a bit obsessed with bridges. It wasn't just about getting people across bodies of water, a big deal for the island of Manhattan, it was about big, expensive symbols of engineering prowess.
One particularly gross example of mega-bridge planning was the Lindenthal bridge, with a 3,240 foot long central span and 825 foot tall towers at 57th street in Manhattan and over into Weehawken in New Jersey. The plans, drawn up by engineer Gustav Lindenthal back when the Brooklyn Bridge was new in 1888 would have been twice the size of that famous bridge.
The whole thing started getting a bit more serious in the early 1920s, but it was ultimately nixed for the significantly more cost efficient Holland Tunnel. The one bridge that spans the Hudson today, the George Washington Bridge, is longer than the Lindenthal would have ever been, but nowhere near as wide, or as tall as that monstrous Lindenthal dream.
Photo Credit: University of Houston
9.) Multilevel roads
Suggested By: fishbender
Why it's unthinkable: Cars go on the bottom and people go on the top. As a pedestrian this is just fantastic. You don't have to dodge taxis every time you step into the road, because all the cars are down below, permanently in tunnels.
This would be great if we all had wailing V12s to play with in those endless echo chambers, but since this is the future and we'll probably all be strapped into our driverless electric wondermobiles, there won't be much to enjoy as a driver.
Photo Credit: Wiley Corbett
8.) Transatlantic Tunnel
Suggested By: SennaMP4
Why it's unthinkable: Planes are pretty terrible. There's always some panda crapping in a plastic bag next to you, and the food is constantly killing off passengers, but never the ones talking your ear off detailing intimate details of their family vacations in Aruba.
Why put up with the hassle when you could just hop on a train and pop out in the Old Country, or better yet, drive there? We already have transatlantic cables laying across the ocean floor from Scotland over to Newfoundland, so why not just tunnel along there? We've been dreaming about it since Jules Verne, so how hard could it be?
Photo Credit: Gaumont British Picture Corporation
7.) The Bering Strait Bridge
Suggested By: primalzer
Why it's unthinkable: If you're not intimately familiar with the particulars of the Bering Strait, we forgive you. It's a frozen corner of the world, completely uninviting to frail, tiny human beings and all other creatures without at least a few hundred pounds of blubber to stay warm.
This cold, icy remoteness also makes bridging North America and Asia a daunting proposition. Don't expect to be working more than four months a year, and don't expect to have an easy time while you're there.
Still, the idea of linking the continents by road or by rail is an enticing one, helping to link the whole world together with giant intercontinental highways. It all has the taste of geoengineering, which is a bout as serious a pipe dream as people can have.
6.) Gravitational space highways
Suggested By: Gamecat235
Why it's unthinkable: Yes, but what about getting around in space? Instead of just shooting ourselves off in little metal tubes aiming straight for moons and planets like we do now, space travel will be far more sophisticated. Professor Shane Ross of Virginia Tech describes us using,
…low energy pathways winding between planets and moons that would slash the amount of fuel needed to explore the solar system…These are freefall pathways in space around and between gravitational bodies. Instead of falling down, like you do on Earth, you fall along these tubes
Making space travel faster and more fuel efficient is a key to getting us out there, so gravitational space highways sounds like a great idea.
5.) Flying highways
Why it's unthinkable: There are a lot of good reasons why we don't have flying cars. The two vehicles have radically different design criteria and trying to get a car off the ground is a recipe for vicious compromise.
In the case that things did work out, we would get to look forward to this future, where we all zip around in three dimensions, following pre-set flight paths like some invisible highway. We can at least hope that these flying cars run on autopilot, otherwise we would be looking at the biggest crashing, burning traffic jam the world has ever seen, all raining down on the heads of pedestrians down below and straight intot he sides of buildings.
I don't know how the Jetsons do it.
Photo Credit: The Fifth Element, Gaumont
4.) Disney's color-coded cantilever highways
Suggested By: zacarious
Why it's unthinkable: Watch the video and you tell me why cantilever desert highways are a little hard to imagine. Still there are many innovative ideas presented in this Disney bit from 1958. Color-coded lanes, massive planning, these are all recipes for making America all the more suburban, but maybe some of them will go on and inspire better ideas for a richer, denser United States.
3.) Inductive charging lanes
Suggested By: mz3nb
Why it's unthinkable: The endless talking point for electric vehicles is how far they can go on a charge and how long it takes to complete charge of the battery. Why, though, should you ever have to stop to charge your battery pack?
Inductive charging is what charges an electric toothbrush, or if you're Danny DeVito, your old GM EV-1. Put enough wires near each other and they can send electricity to each other without direct contact. Why not just make highways a giant inductive charger, recharging electric vehicles on-the-go?
Well, you need a lot of wiring to make inductive charging work, so even if you could manage and get a length of highway built with this kind of charging, it would be happily crushed to potholed oblivion by eighteen-wheelers, the pressure of regular traffic, and well, winter.
That said, we're not here to appropriate infrastructure budgets, we're here to dream, and this is a brilliant idea, it just has to work a bit on the feasibility side before we sign off on it.
Photo Credit: GE
2.) Minority Report's highways
Suggested By: TheKlic
Why it's unthinkable: As we've seen more times than we like to recall, people have a hard time navigating in two dimensions, so switching to three dimensions with vertical highways is probably a recipe for disaster of epic proportions.
Still, adding giant, sky-bound superhighways is a fantastic one, and even though you wouldn't really be driving your future Google car, you'd at least get a good view from up there.
Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox
1.) Walking cities
Suggested By: RyGuy gets around by pedal power now
Why it's unthinkable: Suburbia isn't a great system, either for getting around or growing up, and architects point out its lack of density as a major problem. Still, Americans love to own a nice big home and move around, so suburbia seems like a natural solution.
The less conventional idea would be to have the suburbs move and not the people. Families settled in homes could get up and move in a special highway lane and parking by the side of the road, followed along by movie theaters, malls, power plants and supermarkets. They'd all park up and down along the highway, making for one giant, continuous urban area along America's interstates.
The idea goes back to the 1940's science fiction short story The Roads Must Roll and expanded with the fantastically named 1960s freak-out architecture group Electronic Tomato, but continues today at the design group Terreform ONE in Brooklyn. I have no idea how this would all work, but the idea of America's highways becoming a gigantic, moving, dense urban area is the most insanely wonderful rethink of American living I've ever heard.