Most native Texans, when pressed, will admit that the old adage "Everything is Bigger in Texas" is not always true. Sure, Texas might have a larger land area than most European countries (namely, France) and the state's GDP might handily outrank all but 11 countries in the world were it still a nation ourselves, but there are plenty of tiny things in Texas, from precipitation, to social tolerance, to preparedness for natural disasters.
But if there's one thing Texans loves more than oil it's freedom, and if there's one thing the majority of Texans have equated with freedom it's cars (which comes in handy, given the state's huge supply of oil), so it makes perfect sense that the Lone Star state is home to the world's widest freeway.
Just How Huge Is the Katy Freeway?
Texas' Katy Freeway measures a massive 26 lanes across—that's total, as of this moment, not on one side. Here's exactly how the Katy Freeway, the world's largest, is built.
Each side of the Katy Freeway has six lanes, which any roadworthy vehicle can use to travel (Read: No tractors; and no horses). In addition, four lanes line each side of the Katy Freeway as an access road, allowing access to businesses along the side, as well as to the main lanes of the freeway. Yes, that's right: The access roads of the world's widest freeway are wider than most of the world's typical large freeways.
Additionally, the Katy Freeway offers three so-called "Managed Lanes" on each side, which prioritize transit vehicles and those carrying more than two passengers—think of Managed Lanes as the Katy Freeway's answer to HOV Lanes. Because of course Texas can't be seen copying California.
Where Exactly Is the Katy Freeway?
The Katy Freeway is named for the suburb of Katy, located west of Houston, TX on Interstate 10, and comprises a certain span of I-10 west outside of downtown Houston. While it's difficult to say precisely where the Katy Freeway begins and where it ends, the 26-lane segment sits near the junction of I-10 with Beltway 8, also known as the Sam Houston tollway, 13 miles west of downtown Houston.
This means that you are most likely to drive on the Katy Freeway if you're using Beltway 8 to drive around Houston's downtown core, then continuing west toward San Antonio, Austin or points beyond. Of course, if you don't mind braving Houston's traffic (more on that in a minute), you could simply drive to the Katy Freeway from anywhere in the area on your own accord—this is the world's widest freeway, after all. How often are you going to be able to claim to drive on the world's widest freeway?
Does the Katy Freeway's Big Size Make It Better?
If you ask most Houstonians (and especially most former Houstonians who've fled the Bayou City for greener pastures), no. Houston's traffic, at least colloquially, is nightmarish at best, so it would seem that the city's obscenely wide freeways (the Katy Freeway is but one of them) have done little but to encourage Houston residents to drive more, leading to even more traffic congestion. If you build it, they will come—and, it seems, they will drive to get there!
In fact, Houston's traffic is relatively modest for a city of its size. According to an early 2014 study, Houston ranks a lowly #20 when it comes to traffic, far behind other notorious terrible traffic cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles. Interestingly, much smaller Austin ranks at #4, while the only other Texas city on the list is Dallas, which sits several spots below Houston at #25. On the whole, this seems like good news, although it's unlikely to be of much comfort to you the next time you're stuck in a Houston traffic jam.
As to whether any of this is directly related to the mammoth width of Katy Freeway, that's hard to say. But while oil wells in Texas might be deeper, and vehicles (and, perhaps, egos?) larger in Texas, the surprising truth is that roads in the Lone Star, at least for the moment, remain bigger than its traffic woes.