The Surprising Beauty Of The World’s Most Hellish Traffic Interchanges

In the world of traffic planning, “spaghetti junction” is a nickname given to a traffic interchange that is so complicated, it seems like Jove should hurl meatballs down upon it from above. New York City’s Long Island Expressway and the legendary Can Of Worms outside of Rochester are examples of spaghetti junctions, but there are hundreds of examples of others in America alone.

Chicago-based designer Nicholas Rougeux usually sticks to illuminating the patterns in language, or what lies in between it. For his latest experiment in data visualization, though, Rougeux has hit the road–quite literally–with a colorful series of choreographs which aim to make sense of the world’s most bewildering intersections.

Newark, New Jersey

Rougeux’s Interchange Choreographies tries to map out the world’s spaghetti junctions by assigning colors to each road coming in and out of the interchange. It’s a little like individually dying each piece of spaghetti with food coloring to figure out how they intertwine on your dinner plate. Rougeux was able to do this by using OpenStreetMap data, isolating the roadways, and then tweaking them in Illustrator until the roads had all been manually isolated as different color strands. Major roads are colored red, blue, yellow, and purple, while minor roads are colored green, orange, and pink.

Rougeux says that his interchanges “resemble everything from dancers to otherworldly creatures,” but what I see are alt-universe subway systems, stripped of their station names. So far, he’s created 60 of these Choreographies, spanning every continent but Antarctica. Is anyone really surprised, though, that all of the most Gordian traffic interchanges seem to be located in New Jersey?

You can order prints of Rougeux’s Interchange Choreographies for around $28 a piece here.

Cover Photo: ChameleonsEye via Shutterstock