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Saturday, March 24, 2012

World's Worst Highways #6

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#6. Lena Highway Eats Your Car and Casts You into a Hopeless Dystopia

It carries the loving nickname "Highway from Hell ," and when travelers say they're "neck-deep in mud," they're just trying to give an accurate measurement:
"Hon, would you mind getting out and giving us a push?"
And in fact ...
... they might be making an understatement.

That nightmare is in the Yakutia region of Russia and was built in the '50s when it became essential to connect the capital of the region, Yakutsk, to the Trans-Siberian Railway. This posed some difficulty, as the nearest train station was almost 800 miles away. Normally this would have been solved with a brand new highway, but as the Yakutia region is the absolute backwater ofSiberia, it was not too high on the Soviet government's give-a-damn list. So they just mowed a half-assed dirt road next to a local river, named it the M56 Lena Highway, placed it on the list of actual federal highways  and had the rest of the day off.
The thing about all the mud is -- wait, is that guy wearing pants?
During winter, this works just fine. Yakutsk is the coldest town on earth, with January temperatures averaging around -40 degrees , and the rest of the area isn't much better. Such temperatures seal up and harden the dirt into a very neat, tarmac-like structure that drivers can cruise over at a relatively cool 45 mph.
The problem is that the highway is also used during summer, when temperatures can reach up to 90 degrees and rainfall is abundant. And the river that runs alongside the road is extremely prone to flooding. And this isn't some remote roadway -- every summer, hundreds upon hundreds of vehicles venture the road (because, you know, there are no alternatives), only to get stuck in traffic jams that continue for days on end.
"OK, so who are we eating first?"
In deepest Siberia.
With all the cars slowly sinking.
It is not uncommon for an unassuming joyride to turn into a full-blown movie-worthy survival situation. Hunger runs rampant and fights break out easily. People have been known to break into other travelers' cars in search of food and shelter. One woman freaking gave birth on the bus she was on, since it was stuck in the mud and no ambulance driver was willing to try and reach her.
Which only supports our crusade to convert all ambulances into monster trucks.
That doesn't mean that Russian ambulance crews are pussies, by the way. Rescue crews tend to never show up on the highway because if they do, the stranded people beat the living shit out of them  in frustration.

Read more: 6 Insane Roads You Won't Believe People Actually Drive On |

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