German Autobahn Photos

Thanks to a set of E-mails I received from a German in May, 2001, I have a series of autobahn photos to be shown here.  These photos were taken by Michael Koehler (thanks Michael!), and show a few interesting features on the Autobahn routes of Germany (which are similar to our Interstate routes in the U.S.)

Heading south from Stuttgart via A831/A81.  The bridge in the background is the A8 crossing over A81.
Still heading south on A81.  This photo is 2km (about 1 1/4 miles) later.  The exit leads to Sindelfingen, location of a Mercedes-Benz factory.
500 meters later (about 1,600 feet).
2km (1 1/4 miles) further down.  The exit to the right leads to Böblingen.
Not an Autobahn, per se.  The Germans call this type of road a Landstraße....roughly equivalent to an expressway or surface arterial in the U.S.  This one, at 4 lanes divided, is "big" by German standards, where most of them in Germany are 2 lanes undivided.
A view of the A8 heading east from Stuttgart towards Ulm and Munich.  No speed limit here, according to Michael.
2km down the road.  The exit to the right leads towards Stuttgart Airport.  Some of the buildings in the far background are associated with the airport.
3km (just under 2 miles) later.  Michael estimated the speed of the car in the far left lane at 200 km/h (roughly 124 mph).
Another 3km down the road.  Michael complains that "Germany has too much trucks on the Autobahns. :-)"
This is a bottleneck section on the A8.  Here, we are heading up the "Schäbische Alb" on a segment called "Lämmerbuckel", located between Aichelberg and Ulm.  As one can see, this segment has only 2 lanes and no shoulder/emergency lane, and there are a lot of curves on this segment.  According to Michael, the roadway arrangement hasn't changed since the early 1940s!  And every Friday is primarily when this bottleneck gets jammed.  Michael also notes that the German government has discussed improving this section since the early 1970s, but as with the U.S., bureaucracy has a tendency to slow things down.


Design Standards Comparison

The following table shows a comparison in design standards between the U.S. Interstate system, and a "best guess" with the German Autobahn system.  For simplicity, I have converted all measurements to Metric.

Design Element U.S. Interstate system German Autobahn system (Best Guess)
Design Speed 80kph minimum, 97kph recommended in urban areas, 113kph recommended in rural areas. Minimums appear to be 60kph in urban areas and 80kph in rural areas.  Standards appear to be 80kph in urban areas and 160kph in rural areas.
Grades 3-5% recommended, 5-7% maximum (in mountainous terrain only) Roughly the same.  Older portions may have slightly steeper grades.
Lane Width 3.66m minimum 3m minimum.  Left lane is occasionally reduced to 2m during road construction and reserved for cars only.
Right shoulder (emergency lane) width 3.05m minimum, 1.83m minimum in mountainous terrain, 3.66m suggested if truck traffic is heavy. Generally 2.6m
Left shoulder width 1.22m minimum in rural areas, 3.05m minimum in urban areas and on 6+ lane segments, 3.66m suggested if truck traffic is heavy. No apparent standard.  Generally speaking, there is no left shoulder in Germany.
Median width 10.97m minimum in rural areas (18.3m to 21.95m is desirable), 3.05m minimum in urban or mountainous areas. No apparent standard.  Often, especially in narrow, urban areas, the opposing lanes are separated only by a Jersey barrier or by guardrail.
Interchange spacing Recommended minimum of 1.6km in between interchanges in urban areas, and 4.8km spacing in rural areas.  Recommended minimum of 800m between an entrance ramp and the following exit ramp on mainlines. No apparent standard.
Bridge vertical clearance 4.88m minimum, 5.18m recommended. 4.5m
Tunnel height clearance 4.88m minimum 4.5m
Tunnel width (for a 2-lane tunnel) 9.14m minimum, 13.41m desireable Roughly 9m.

Autobahn Links

Strassenimpressionen (German website...roughly translates as "Street Impressions") - By Matthias Lambertz.  Has photos of the German Autobahn system, as well as other road types in Germany.
Autobahn Online - Also has an English version
Getting Around Germany - The "Texas Highwayman" has spent considerable time in Germany and offers a guide on how to get around, including a guide to the Autobahn.


Page last modified 06 June, 2005