The History of Autobahn
When you think of the German Autobahn, it’s likely you think of a lead foot’s dream complete with high speed, flashing lights, and zipping cars. While the Autobahn is typically known for its lack of a federally mandated speed limit, it also has a rich history that dates back to the 1920s.
Known as the Bundesautobahn in Germany, this network of highways is considered one of the most dense and longest in the world, stretching a total length of about 8,026 miles. Construction of the Autobahn first began in 1913, making it the world’s first motorway. It began in Berlin and was originally an experimental highway that was used for racing, featuring two eight-meter lanes that were separated by a nine-meter wide median. With origins in racing, it’s no wonder the Autobahn has become known for speed.
The network of the Autobahn slowly began to grow, particularly during the Weimar Republic, but it didn’t truly flourish until after the 1933 Nazi takeover. When Hitler became leader of Germany, he recognized the resourcefulness of having a high-speed road system. Because of this, he started a program to build two north-south and east-west motorway links. These motorways became known as the Reichsautobahnen, and the first was opened on May 19, 1935, between Frankfurt and Darmstadt.
While World War II halted the construction of these motorways in 1943, the Autobahn network totaled about 1,322 miles before the construction was stopped. The end of the war found that much of the Autobahn was ruined, due to misuse and heavy military vehicle traffic. While West Germany repaired most of its existing Autobahns soon after the war was over, the Eastern portion of the country did not truly begin repairs until the reunification of Germany in 1990.
Now, the Autobahn is a destination for speed-lovers around the world. The network is known as the third largest superhighway system, trailing behind only the United States and China. Would you take a spin on the Autobahn? Share your thoughts with us below!
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