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Christopher Bruce2012-08-06 19:05:30

German Autobahn Celebrates 80th Birthday on August 6

 
 
Slideshow
An autobahn from 1934

The German Autobahn celebrates the 80th anniversary of the opening of the first 18km section between Cologne and Bonn on August 6 1932. Before you begin reading this piece, I recommend that you scroll to the bottom and click play on the song Autobahn by the German band Kraftwerk. 

The Autobahn is seen as an icon of motoring today around the world. It is known as one of the few places in the world where drivers can legally drive as fast as they want. However, about a third has a permanent speed limit; an eighth has no limit at all, and the rest is variable. The average speed on unrestricted Autobahn has been found to be about 140km/h and most German cars are restricted to 250km/h. 

It covers 12,819km of total highway. Even today, the Autobahn is the third-longest highway network in the world behind China with 45,400km and the US with 75,376km. 

While sometimes connected to Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime, the first portions of the Autobahn were planned during the Weimar Republic, and Konrad Adenauer opened the first portion over a year before Hitler came to power. It would be disingenuous to say that the Nazis had nothing to do with the roadway. By 1940, there was 3,736km of Autobahn connecting Germany. Due to the fractioning of Germany after World War 2, West Germany had 2,128km of Autobahn by 1950 but by 1990 that had increased to 8,822km. The roads in East Germany had not been as well maintained and required extensive repair following reunification. Germany also completed stretches of Autobahn in Poland, Austria and a small portion in the current Czech Republic.

In the 30s and shortly after the war, the Autobahn were often nearly empty because most people did not have cars. Oftentimes, they would be shutdown for organized races. The two most famous examples of this are the AVUS near Berlin and the A5 route connecting Frankfurt am Main and Darmstadt. Avus had two roughly 8km long straights connected by tight corners on either end. The northern corner had steep banking as well. Today, it is the A115 Autobahn. The A5 was used by Auto UnionAuto-UnionAuto-UnionGermany, 1932 > 19647 models
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and MercedesMercedes-BenzMercedes-BenzGermany, 1924 > present197 models
9897 photos
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to attempt to set world land speed records in 1938. The cars were going around 429km/h, but an accident took Bernd Rossmeyer's life during the test. 

There are attempts in process now to further improve the Autobahn. Germany currently spends about €5 billion a year on upkeep and improvements for the road.

Source: The Local.de

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