There are a few fundamental rules we all rely on to bring order to this chaotic world. Stealing is bad. Helping others is good. And depending on what country you find yourself in, you either drive on the left or the right side of the road—not both. Unless you end up along a mountainous stretch of Mexico’s Highway 150 in the eastern state of Veracruz, where oncoming traffic crosses paths to swap sides in the middle of the road. Madness? Not quite.
It’s not every day you see a traffic pattern that seems purposefully designed to cause head-on collisions. Highway 150 is a major route connecting Mexico City with Veracruz City on the Gulf coast, and though it runs six lanes wide at points, it’s forced down to a two-lane ribbon of twisting tarmac as it crosses the towering Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains. It’s there where things get weird.
At two points along a thousand-foot drop, the highway coils itself into a series of tight switchbacks where vehicles are directed to swap lanes on the straight sections by crossing in an X shape, like the middle of a figure-8 course or a slot car track changeover. Left goes right, right goes left. There are no flashing lights or barriers or anything like that—just a snake’s nest of arrows painted on the pavement and a driver’s wits to get through unscathed.
It’s not like you’d need more than one reminder, though. This video of a car descending the funhouse road shows how unsettling it is to come around a sharp curve and see a large truck steaming up toward you in your lane. It helps that everyone seems to be going slow, but can you imagine this in the dark?
The design might look like insanity incarnate, but there’s actually a very good reason for it. Watch the video again, and check out the location on Google Maps. You’ll notice that the arrows are set up to always direct downhill traffic to the inside of the curves, and uphill traffic to the outside. This is to help large trucks traveling up the slope, as they’d likely be unable to navigate the steeper inside line due to the momentum needed on such a grade.
The remote and challenging terrain also makes widening the road unworkable—thus, this strangely elegant solution. Whether or not it’s the best solution, we’ll leave up to you.
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