The words highway and extreme may be a redundancy. The fast pace of highways are inherently extreme, but there are those highways that go beyond. The physical environment that highways traverse is often severe. Moreover, construction crews risk life and wellbeing to build some of the world’s most extreme highways.
World’s Lowest Highway
Israel’s Highway 90, colloquially referred to as the Dead Sea Highway, is the world’s lowest road, but don’t play a sad country song, “low” isn’t always an insult. The highway rests at 1,298 feet below sea level.
The road’s lowliness is interesting, however, elevation plays little role in the highway’s danger. According to Dangerousroads.org, The Dead Sea Highway isn’t merely the lowest road, it’s one of the most dangerous. The 480 kilometer stretch of highway connects the city of Metula to Lebanon. The monotony of traversing the desert makes the road perilous, accidents occur routinely, at high speeds. There are few focal points or changes in scenery, drivers easily succumb to Highway Hypnosis. Driversed.com calls Highway Hypnosis “a dulled, drowsy, trance-like state.” Despite dangers, The Dead Sea Highway is now a vital part of Israel’s network of roads.
There is a dearth of information on the construction of Israel’s Highway 90, but it can be assumed, as with the construction of any structure that spans a desert, there was a great deal of peril involved.
World’s Highest Highway
There exists much debate over the world’s highest motorable pass. The debate centers around semantics. Although the terms “highest” and “motorable” seem easily defined, they’re at the center of the debate: should a road be considered motorable if it can be driven only by an expert driver? The ballot hasn’t closed, but most say “no.” Regardless of semantics., there are two contenders in the running for world’s highest road, China’s Suge La and India’s Leh Manali Highway. Most agree that the Leh Manali Highway is the title-holder.
Construction of the world’s highest highway was no small feet. According to the Times of India, the road’s summit rests at over 19,000 feet. The projects Chief Engineer stated that “at the altitude of over 19,300 feet [highway construction] was filled with life-threatening challenges.” Oxygen is much less abundant at this altitude. The lack of oxygen caused sickness for many of the crew. It wasn’t just the altitude that caused challenges for the road crew on the Leh Manali Highway, summer temperatures hover around -4 degrees, and drop much lower during winter. The Times of India reports that machinery functioned with 50 percent less efficiency at that altitude, making a bad situation worse.
Road crews have risked life and wellbeing to connect worlds. The world’s highways connect people from different cultures. They span mountains and deserts, creating bridges for the transportation of goods and ideas. Moreover, motorists often risk their lives to traverse some of the world’s most extreme highways.