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German Autobahns

Started by Chris, May 03, 2009, 07:08:56 AM

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Let me present to you the German Autobahn.

The German Autobahn is similar to the Interstate Highway system, and is also layed out in a grid pattern, rather unique for Europe, where most networks are radiating from the capital and other larger cities. The first Autobahn opened in 1935 between Darmstadt and Frankfurt, modern-day A5. It was mostly used as a high speed racetrack in the first years. Many more Autobahns were build in the 1930's, similar to the Parkway development in and around New York.

The current Autobahn network is about 12,500 kilometers or 7,800 miles, which would put it fourth or fifth in the world, behind Spain, China and the United States, and is similar in length to the network of France.

The entire Autobahn network is toll free for cars, but trucks do have to pay a toll electronically. Most Autobahns have 4 or 6 lanes, but stretches with more than 6 lanes are rare, and Texas style Autobahns do not exist. Major upgrading works are underway on busy truck corridors, to six-lane most long distance Autobahns, but these works are gonna take years.

The most famous part of the German Autobahn is the general lack of a speed limit, it's indeed possible and allowed to drive over 120 miles an hour, or even more. However, the general perception is that everybody drives at the speed of light, due to high fuel prices and heavy traffic, most people do not drive faster than 90 or 100 miles an hour. About 60% of the Autobahn network is limited at 80 mph or less.

I have made thousands of pictures in Germany. You can find all sets here, on my Flickr account

Some examples of signage:

1. First announcement of the exit: name, number and distance.

2. Overhead signage. Not all exits have overhead signage.

3. At the exit. A road number of an intersecting Bundesstrasse may be shown, not in this example.

4. A distance table follows after the exit, showing the A-number, E-number and major cities.

5. Touristic signs are common along the roads.

6. River crossing (minor river)

7. Rest areas are announced more in advance.

8. This overhead shows the two different fonts used in Germany. Hannover is in the regular "mittelschrift" , Rheda-Wiedenbrück is too long, and shown in narrow font ("engschrift").

9. General view of a high quality Autobahn.

10. An SOS phone in case of an emergency. Less used these days with everybody owning cell phones.

11. Announcement for road works with lanes shifted. In this case, there are still 3 lanes, but the left one narrows to two meters only.

12. Yellow markings show the temporary road situation.

13. This is the first announcement of a major rest area with services. Unlike the United States, services are always along the Autobahn, and not near exits (except for some truck stops called an "Autohof"). It also shows the distance to the next gas station.

14. First announcement of the actual exit to the rest area.

15. It's repeated after 500 meters.

16. And at the actual exit. This one is an Aral gas station plus services like a Burger King. It also features a bathroom for the disabled.

17. Now the interchange. Interchanges between different Autobahns have a name. They can be a "Kreuz"  (Cross) (4-way) or a "Dreieck" (Triangle)(3-way). The name of the interchange is named on the signs at the last exit before the interchange.

18. This distance table also shows a destination for the intersecting Autobahn, in this case the A33.

19. These signs are used when exits are in rapid succession, like two exits or interchanges in two to three kilometers or less.

20. First signage shows the layout of the lanes ahead.

21. This is repeated at 500 meters.

22. And the exit to A33. This is a relatively simple interchange.

Many consider the German signage to be one of the best in Europe, although it has some flaws, I think the German signage is indeed the best in Europe, and maybe even the world.


The autobahns are great pieces of engineering.  I've only been on a select few, but the ones I have were awesome
NJ Roads FTW!
Quote from: agentsteel53 on September 30, 2009, 04:04:11 PM
I-99... the Glen Quagmire of interstate routes??


I've been on the Autobahns a few times. Last year I drove to Hungary and was stuck in a jam between Nürnberg and Regensburg. Traffic jams are something else the Autobahn is famous for. I believe traveling on a Friday afternoon in July wasn't the smartest thing to do :cool:

As my car has a top speed of only 130 I only took it up to 120.
Speed limits limit life


Quote13. This is the first announcement of a major rest area with services. Unlike the United States, services are always along the Autobahn, and not near exits (except for some truck stops called an "Autohof"). It also shows the distance to the next gas station.

The only exception to this are older current and former toll roads.  The NJ, PA, OH, IN, IL, NY, MA, ME, DE pikes all have service areas as well as some (most? all?) in Oklahoma as well as some of Kentucky's parkways.

NOTE TO ALL: This is not an exhaustive list.

However, IIRC, these are grandfathered into the interstate system and no new (insterstate) highway may have them.
My Flickr Photos:

I'm out of this F***KING PLACE!


The History Channel's Modern Marvels did a whole documentary on the Autobahns, aka Adolf Hitler's Highway.


Adolf Hitler did certainly not invent the Autobahn, he didn't like them at all at first, but saw the propaganda value of them after a while.


Quote from: Chris on May 05, 2009, 04:53:54 AM
Adolf Hitler did certainly not invent the Autobahn, he didn't like them at all at first, but saw the propaganda value of them after a while.

Did he also see the military value in them?
My Flickr Photos:

I'm out of this F***KING PLACE!


That's why he didn't like them at first, enemy troops would be able to advance too fast with the Autobahns.


And that's exactly what happened.
Please note: All comments here represent my own personal opinion and do not reflect the official position of NYSDOT or its affiliates.


QuoteThat's why he didn't like them at first, enemy troops would be able to advance too fast with the Autobahns.
And this is not in the history books??????????(at least none that I know of)
I am now a PennDOT employee.  My opinions/views do not necessarily reflect the opinions/views of PennDOT.


A59 in Duisburg, industrial city, part of a 10 million metropolitan area (Rhine-Ruhr)

A3 near Köln (Cologne). Population: 980,000

J N Winkler

QuoteAnd this is not in the history books?????????? (at least none that I know of)

Ian Kershaw's biography of Hitler has some detail on Hitler's initial lack of enthusiasm for motorways.  Richard Vahrenkamp also has some working papers which go into considerable detail on pre-1933 German thinking on motorways in the context of the wider road versus rail issue.  The Nazis were divided on the motorway question for a long time.  Fritz Todt, who supervised German motorway construction under Hitler, was a party member since 1923 and had been pitching motorway schemes since the mid-1920's at least, but his opinion was initially in the minority--it was not until later that he was taken into party headquarters as an advisor on economic and industrial development.

In the late 1920's Gregor Strasser (who represented the socialism in National Socialism) was opposed to motorways and helped scuttle HAFRABA's attempts to introduce legislation to allow motorway construction, but by 1933 the party had moved around to the idea of motorways as a job creation program/prestige project/propaganda coup/spur to motorization.  The passage of an enabling law for motorways was one of Hitler's first acts in office, and the various groups of motorway advocates (of which HAFRABA was probably the most well-known) were among the earliest targets for forced amalgamation under Party supervision (Gleichschaltung).  The resulting organization was called GEZUVOR, an acronym of the German for "Society for the Preparation of the Motorway Work," and its principal work product was 387 volumes' worth of plans and profiles for a 10,000-km motorway network.  These 387 volumes have never come to light (it is not known whether they survived the war).
"It is necessary to spend a hundred lire now to save a thousand lire later."--Piero Puricelli, explaining the need for a first-class road system to Benito Mussolini


For those who don't know: "HAFRABA" is short for "Hamburg - Frankfurt - Basel", a major north-south corridor, consisting of todays A7 and A5, although I believe it was originally to be A5 all the way north of Gießen to Bremen as the HaFraBa corridor.


The Autobahn looks amazing. I saw a special on the History Channel about it. Cool special.

Be well,

Check out my YouTube page ( I have numerous road videos of Metro Atlanta and other areas in the Southeast.

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The earliest German Autobahns date back from the 1930's, and were called a "Reichsautobahn" (Empire freeway).

These used to have concrete, no shoulders, and very tight exits that looked more like a 90 degrees turn than an offramp. Some of these still exist, but most interchanges have been modernized with longer exit lanes. Still, some rest areas still have a stop sign when entering the Autobahn, which usually has a speed limit of 130 km/h (80 mph) in those sections.

The following video was taken on a sunday on the A9, which is a major Autobahn from Berlin to München (Munich). This is the last part of the entire 529 km A9 that hasn't been modernized/widened to 6 lanes.


Is the jerking of the camera caused by the rough surface? It reminds me of the road near Eupen and many US concrete roads :cool:
Speed limits limit life


that's just amazing.  not only the old road (reminds me of the oldest sections of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, 1940 - same basic principles of roadbuilding) but the fact that the speed limit there is 80.  In the US, a road like that would never get anything above 65!

too bad the signs on the Reichsautobahn aren't white with glass cateyes.  They always find a way to modernize the signs!

are there any other autobahns in former East Germany that are this decrepit?  If so, I need to get over there and drive them before it's too late.  I've heard that in 1990, a lot of the East German roads were just like they were left in 1945! 
live from sunny San Diego.


Most Autobahnen are rehabilitated by now.

Reichsautobahnen also extended into what is modern-day Poland, such as the A4 to Wrocław which was horrible in 2003 (longest stairs of Europe due to the gaps between the concrete) but renovated in 2006. As of today, no more bad-quality freeways exist in Poland.

A11 in Germany is that last Autobahn that's still in old conditions as far as I know. It connects Berlin with Szczecin in Poland. I think it will be renovated in one or two years.


is that A11 that's undergoing renovation in those photos?
live from sunny San Diego.


Yes it is.

I remember the A13 (Berlin - Dresden) to be so bad we all got seasick with our caravan behind the car. It was merely a concrete road that was more like gravel. Most of these Autobahns have been renovated, but still have that 1930's alignment, although that's not so much of a problem in the rural areas they run through.

J N Winkler

There is actually not that much difference between Bauanweisung Nr. 3 standards (1933) and current design standards.  The problem, as I understand it, is that the Nazis showed a deliberate preference for mountain routings (which attract a different design class) because they did not want the popularity of the Autobahn program to be compromised by more economic but also more obtrusive routings through populated valley floors.  As a result, many segments of the Autobahn network are crippled by bad winter weather whereas parallel sections of Bundesstrassen remain functional.

Modern Autobahnen also tend to have flowing alignments.  The practice of perspective evaluation of prospective alignments was developed and rolled out in response to the unsightly visual kinks and twists in the alignments of early Autobahnen.  It was subsequently imported to Britain, and allowed the British to capitalize on their late start to sidestep some German mistakes, but it never quite made its way across the Atlantic, though Tunnard and Pushkarev promoted it heavily in Man-made America.
"It is necessary to spend a hundred lire now to save a thousand lire later."--Piero Puricelli, explaining the need for a first-class road system to Benito Mussolini


I think the A8, München (Munich) - Salzburg is the prime example of such a mountain Autobahn. It could've run somewhat further north, through flat lands, but no, the nazi's constructed it through a mountainous area with sharp curves and grades up to 7%. It's now a pain in the ass with a lot of truck traffic going 25 mph uphill.

I happened to drive there last wednesday, and I took pics of course, since it was my first time clinching that part of A8.

This is actually an unsigned exit. Notice the merging lanes are no longer than 4 dashes of paint!

No shoulders + breakdown = traffic jam.

narrow alignment.

It's better after Dreieck Inntal (Interchange Inntal)


where does the unsigned exit go to?  I cannot seem to find it on google maps.  Is it the customs lane just before the Austria border?
live from sunny San Diego.



Oh yeah, the speed limit on this road is mostly 80 mph.

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