Sunday, July 3

The longest “highway” in the world: 30,000 kilometers to go from Alaska to Buenos Aires

If there is an interesting mega-construction, it is that of the Trans-Siberian Railway, a huge 9,288 kilometer road that crosses no more and no less than seven time zones. It is a most interesting construction, but there is a longer one still: the Highway or Pan-American Route, which has the honor of being the longest “highway” in the world.

We cannot really say that it is a road itself, hence we put quotes. The Pan-American Highway is a interconnected highway system that goes from Alaska, in the extreme north of the United States, to Tierra del Fuego, in the extreme south of Argentina.

A little car ride?

Complete route of the Pan-American Highway.

The Pan-American Highway emerged at the V International Conference of American States that took place in 1923 and between the 1940s and 1950s it was financed by the United States. Was other previous attempts to unite the entire continent, the main one being a failed railway network project in 1880. In 1923, and taking advantage of the development of the United States automobile industry, we chose a road.

The route is divided into two sections, the north and the south (to no one’s surprise). To the north, the route begins at the Alaska Higway. Then it passes through Canada, which has no official highway assigned to the Pan-American Highway. It passes through the United States through the Interstate Highway System, and from there it passes to Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

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At this point, the road is interrupted for 106 kilometers. The reason? The Darien plug. The highway reaches Turbo (Colombia) and Yaviza (Panama), but due to swamps, swamps and rivers, which made construction too expensive, it was interrupted. Attempts have been made to solve the plug in different ways, but a United Nations body said in 1994 that doing so would entail great environmental damage. Come on, here the road is cut.


Tapon de Darién – CMG Lee licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

If we go from Yaviza to Turbo, we reach the southern section of the road. It passes through Colombina, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina, which is considered the end of the main route. However, there are unofficial routes that continue further south, until reaching Ushuaia. The complete route can be found with greater luxury of detail in Wikipedia, worth checking out.

Using Google Maps and taking some quick accounts we can calculate, more or less, how long it would take us to cross this huge network of roads by car. Leaving aside the Darien Gap, from Alaska to Yaviza there are 130 hours by car, while from Turbo to Buenos Aires there are 110 hours. If we want to get to Ushuaia, we would have to add 37 more hours. The total journey would be 277 hours, that is, 11.5 days by car without stopping.

Image | David C. S. with licence CC BY-SA 4.0

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