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I-96 sings, but it’s fading already

Posted: 10:27 AM, Nov 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-14 10:28:31-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As soon as eastbound I-96 opened in the construction zone where I-96, I-196, and the East Beltline meet, drivers reported hearing something strange.

I-96 was singing.

Or moaning.

Whatever.

As your tires passed over the new pavement between the new bridge and the East Beltline overpass, you could hear a weird kind of noise, which changed in pitch several times before going quiet.

Nearly a week after the opening, the moaning or singing is already fading.

What’s going on?

The question was put via email to John Richard, Grand Region spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Transportation. He brought up the word “tining,” but he immediately dismissed that.  Tining  is a term referred to the grooves you see in concrete pavement to rough it up, increasing traction. But that’s not done on asphalt.

Richard theorized the combination of the “gradation of the mix” of the asphalt combined with tire treads creates the odd singing.

We may never get to study the phenomenon closely, because when I drove over the same pavement today and tried to record it, the singing/moaning was noticably reduced. Wear and tear from passing traffic may eliminate it entirely.

Maybe.

Who knows?