April 21, 2008

Happy Overpass

Overpasses. Those minor marvels of engineering. Sure, it’s easy to appreciate the huge overpasses of major cities, with their cloverleaf patterns and serpentine elevated roads. But I have a particular appreciation for the little overpasses. Crossing over just a few lanes of traffic, they are simultaneously bridge and tunnel. We pass them and immediately forget about them. They are the unsung heroes of traffic.

Well, this week strikes me as a good time to share some overpass photos from my travels, so here are a few images. Click to enlarge.

You can see a more extensive gallery here.






View the full gallery.


To be honest I’ve never really understood the love for overpasses. To me they’ve just never been that appealing. I have a particularly affinity for doorways. We use them every day and yet never stop to think about the fact that we’ve been using them for many many years.

I love these as well — but I think my love for them starts with their Indian English name: flyover. There used to be just one in New Delhi, near the airport, and the highlight of a drive over the flyover was the possibility that an aeroplane might be flying over us as it left the airport.

The overpass.
Great for auto traffic.
Helps cars move along.
Cars don’t think about them.
Instead they speed along.
Going to where they want to go.
Destination? Is not the underpass.

The overpass.
Splits neighborhoods.
Pedastrians think about them.
They don’t want to walk under one.
Stopping before they get to the underpass.
Destination? Not beyond the underpass.

Love those Doric columns!

That’s very cute. Nice way to wake up this morning.

And a Happy Overpass to you. Lots of nooks and crannies in there to hide the Aphikomen…

My father was a civil engineer with a large firm in Chicago and he worked on many overpasses. I had never thought them to be beautiful but your photos show off the engineering design behind their otherwise ordinary appearance. I especially like the first one.

Great photos, sir. They are all fantastic.

Beautiful black & whites. Gorgeous stuff, really.

Nice. For a while I’ve had a strong affinity for freeways, interchanges, overpasses, and bridges… the bigger, fancier, and more heavily constructed, the better. But as you point out, these smaller ones are still important, and can still be beautiful. I just got back from Los Angeles, which is a perfect place to enjoy the mystique of highway engineering.

I don’t know if there are any incomplete overpasses near you, so next time I drive through Madera County I ought to take some pictures of the overpass being built out there on Highway 99. Then I’ll send them to you, and you can add them to your collection as an overpass’s birth. :)

It’s impressive how the concept “small” can be so different. I’m not from the US, and those ones are quite big for me.
Nice pictures anyway, and I really like your blog.

When I was growing up in Tennessee, the overpasses were all painted different colors on the sides. We kids would make a game of noting all the different colors — green, yellow, blue, pink. They were mostly pastels but there was a deep rusty orange too. I suppose it’s possible that it was intended as an aid to motorists but I prefer to think someone just had a sense of making things more beautiful than they had to be.

When we were kids, our father came up with many games to keep us occupied on road trips. One was a challenge to be the first to holler “bingo” when we went over an overpass. The flip side of that was to be the first to shout when we went under one: “ognib” (bingo backwards, natch). Hence my fondness for the things.