Paved With Good Intentions Contest: The Winner

It was an extremely close race, but t paciello, come on up and thank the academy. The readers voted your ode to the horrors of the Cross Bronx Expressway as the best description of the worst in American transportation. For your victory, you will receive a piece of Freakonomics schwag.

Interestingly, there is some independent empirical confirmation backing up t’s selection; the Cross Bronx was declared most congested freeway in America by the Inrix traffic-tracking firm (see this).

You can read t’s entry here (he was finalist number ten). Congrats also to Vicky and Brendan, who made it a horserace by using calming Eastern philosophy and spirited verse to try to come to terms with their trauma on Washington’s Beltway and Massachusetts’ Tobin Bridge. No schwag, but hopefully the catharsis will let the healing process begin.

Another close runner up was Mike’s entry on the I-80 in Nebraska. This raises a fascinating point: while potholed, construction-ridden, filthy, confusing, and hypercongested urban expressways are undoubtedly miserable, a well-paved rural road with high speeds and little traffic can also be a nightmare in its own special way.

One more honorable mention goes to those intrepid souls who wrestle with New Jersey’s Pulaski Skyway; its charms made it the single most complained-about road in the first round.

If you haven’t already done so, do yourself a favor and take a look at the finalists — all were hilarious, as were the comments on them. Indeed, I’d also highly recommend checking out the posts that didn’t make the finals (you can see them here). There were many very funny entries which showed a lot of literary talent; the judges (USC’s Genevieve Giuliano and Mohja Rhoads) and I were sorry many of them had to be excluded.

And what would my entry have been?

Take a jaunt on the Indiana Toll Road in Northwest Indiana and you will wish the Industrial Revolution never happened. The road is lined for miles with decrepit factories, steel mills, refineries, tank farms, and plain old dumps containing God knows what affronts to nature. While the other roads in the contest were bashed based on their temporal, visual, tactile, or aural deficiencies, few roads in the country can top the ITR for olfactory demerits. But don’t test this by inhaling too deeply; other roads may waste hours of your time, but a trip through the toxins that float over the ITR may take hours off your life. Toss in frequent and ongoing construction, traffic jams, and new private management which recently doubled the tolls, and you have the ingredients for a transportation confection you won’t forget.

Again, thanks to all the very talented writers who contributed to the contest, and stay tuned for the next one.

John V

You know how you'll sometimes see dropped mufflers at the side of the road? On the Cross Bronx Expressway, I spotted a dropped transmission. It's a tough road.

science minded

I know alot about the road that's paved merely with `good' intentions i.e., not the self-serving kind Maurren wrote about today, but still not the actual road I wished to be on . I got real-- thanks to freakonomics friends and family..


Cross Bronx Expressway was the first place that I saw an entire stripped car up on a curb on the side of a major highway. I could not imagine how it got stripped (or dumped post stripping) without someone seeing something and calling the police. But I learned later what it meant that it IS in the Bronx...


I agree with your comment on the Indiana Toll Road. I drove it past Gary one night on my way to Chicago, when the US Steel plant was running full production, and the air on that stretch of highway was sickening. This smoggy haze had settled over a low-lying residential area near the highway. I couldn't believe people actually lived in that area.

Leigh Morris

Not sure how far you traveled on the Indiana Toll Road, but your comments are off the mark as far as I'm concerned. Clearly there are some decrepit factories along the toll road (as there are in virtually every older urbanized area), but the Indiana Toll Road traverses some of the finest agricultural and recreational areas in the Midwest. Huge new investments have been made in the steelmaking facilities to make them regional and national assets both economically and environmentally, and with the leadership of Purdue University, the University of Notre Dame and Trine University, there's strong emphasis on high tech employers.


Too late, but here goes:

The road to the Hellroaring Plateau, Montana.

Until I attempted the Hellroaring, I hadn't thought of boulders as paving material. Driving, it feels like your skeleton is coming loose. You go on not because you think it is possible to drive the Hellroaring, but because you know that somehow, it has been done.

This isn't really about the Hellroaring road; it's a tribute to all it's innumerable cousins in the West. Being on the plateau is a spiritual experience - it has the kind of beauty that when you experience it, you cannot believe it shares an equal anywhere, you cannot believe it is possible to so deeply experience beauty at all. Of course there are a million places like it out West, most with roads like the Hellroaring.

This is why I pay tribute to the Hellroaring - we pay for all these roads, we see them on maps, but the treasures of the West are reserved for those who can afford gas-guzzling trucks. Plus, the trip there, on miles and miles of the best driving roads in the country, begs for a car with a fraction of the ground clearance needed to make it up the hellroaring.