The day the (Route 66) music died - Albuquerque Journal

The day the (Route 66) music died

OLD 66 HAS LOST ITS GROOVE: In 2014, the National Geographic Channel got permission from the New Mexico Department of Transportation to build 1,300 feet of “singing roadway” in Tijeras Canyon that played “America the Beautiful” if your tires hit the rumble strips at 45 mph.

It was part of a social experiment that cost New Mexico taxpayers nothing and drew attention from tourists as far away as Australia, according to a story by now-Journal reporter Elise Kaplan, who was writing for the Mountain View Telegraph at the time.

An NMDOT spokeswoman said then, “It was a really cool idea. It promotes public safety because the goal is to have people drive the speed limit. Plus, it can be an attraction along Route 66.” Kaplan wrote, “The song is played as a car’s tires hit grooved metal plates underneath the asphalt. Each plate produces a musical note that come together to play the song. The road is only one of six of its kind in the world and the second in the United States. A road in Lancaster, California, plays the ‘William Tell Overture’ and was created by Honda.”

Now speed up to 2020.

Linda B. McCollam emails, “I recently drove along route 66 4½ miles from Tramway to go over the singing road. I was disappointed to learn it is in great disrepair. There is even a section patched over with asphalt, so it doesn’t work at all there. There is only a small section that is still working properly.

“Do you know who is responsible for the upkeep of this national treasure? … This is a great asset to our state, and it would be wonderful if it was in working order. There is only one, couple-second section that is still functioning properly. I know people drive out to just go over that section of the road and I am sure they are as disappointed as I was at its disrepair. We drove over it four times because it is so fun to hear.”

And David Ryan emails, “I happened to be driving on old 66 west of Tijeras today and noticed the road has been repaved and that the signs for the musical highway have been removed. If you know where to drive, you can still pick up portions of ‘America the Beautiful.’

“Do you know if the highway department plans to restore the musical highway? It can’t cost that much money to keep the singing road intact, and it is whimsical little treats like the musical highway that can make a community special.”

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Kimberly Gallegos, who now handles information for the state Department of Transportation, says it “turns out there are no plans to restore the musical highway. The cost is outrageous, and they have since restored portions of the roadway and removed all of the signs. Unfortunately, this was part of a previous administration and never set in stone to keep up with the maintenance of this singing highway.”

SECOND CLOSED UNDER AVENIDA CÉSAR CHÁVEZ: Albuquerque’s Department of Municipal Development is closing this section of the road for the summer, starting Monday, to slow down traffic.

Johnny Chandler, public information coordinator for the Department of Municipal Development, says,”The temporary closure … is also a bit of an experiment for this neighborhood just south of the Railyards (and) has the potential to add parking and walkability to Second Street south of the Railyards by slowing traffic and giving pedestrians more comfortability while walking to and from the growing Albuquerque Railyards.”

And he adds it “also has the potential to get traffic to take Fourth Street instead. … Fourth Street south of Central has quite a few great local businesses and is built to handle more multi-modal transportation. The closure will last from June 1 to Sept. 1.”

MVD WON’T OPEN IN 3 COUNTIES: Last week’s column included information to schedule an appointment at state-run Motor Vehicle Division offices as the state gradually reopens for business amid the coronavirus.

But offices in McKinley, San Juan and Doña Ana counties will not reopen Monday because of “the continued spread of COVID-19 in those areas,” according to Charlie Moore, who handles information for MVD’s parent agency, Taxation and Revenue.

Offices in other counties are open by appointment only, and for transactions that can’t be done online, such as senior renewals and first-time REAL IDs. Schedule at or by calling 888-683-4636. Moore says staff and customers will be screened for symptoms and have temperatures taken, and face masks are required.

And remember, the governor’s March 30 order says there are no penalties for driving on licenses or plates that have expired during the shutdown, so if you can’t get an appointment, sit tight until things open all the way.

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the Metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858;; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, N.M., 87109.

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

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