Light Trails on a Secret Highway


You’d be forgiven for thinking this is a modern art exhibit. Perhaps you figured it is a sneak peek from the set of the next Star Wars movie. In reality it is something less entertaining, and far more useful.

If there is any secret to breaking through Sacramento’s traffic, it is the road you see pictured here: Highway 160. This stretch of pavement feels little like a highway, and more like a vestigial organ of transportation planning from the early 1900s. With just a few lanes across, it connects the North part of Sacramento through the heart of downtown to what was once a high-profile levee road along the Sacramento river. All of these original routes still remain, though they remain in the shadows of the newer, faster highways lifted above the city streets. That may explain why many locals have never traveled 160 for themselves.

However, when the stop and go of rush hour traffic afflicts the young upstart highways, I can always count on ol’ 160 to get me where I need to go sooner…and with more style. Especially now. Sometime in 2014, someone transformed the drab concrete walls of a railway overpass along Highway 160 into a vibrant mural.

I was driving into downtown Sacramento recently to try my hand at some nighttime photography, and when I realized just how colorful this stop along the old highway had become. I had found my first stop for the night. So as I stepped on to the median to snap my shots, I was surprised to find just how easy it was to capture a photo with no traffic in the scene. But then again, those images made the place look sleepy and lifeless. So I waited for quick bursts of traffic to come along and took some longer exposures for the sake of adding light trails to the image. The image you see is what I left with.

Don’t get me wrong. Most of Highway 160 doesn’t look quite like this. But maybe it is time that someone created a photographic ode to this secret Sacramento highway.

Hang this photo on your wall

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Have you ever driven this stretch of secret highway yourself? Sound off below!