Following several successful FOIA requests, The Charlottan has obtained crucial blueprints for the design of Interstate 277, also known to locals as the Auxiliary Highway of Death, that cite Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road as a key source of inspiration for the beloved 4.41-mile partial loop around Uptown Charlotte.
With over 5,000 confirmed fatalities daily, 277 is widely considered to be one of the safest highways in America. But until now, few have understood the history of such an ingenious piece of civil engineering.
The famed freeway, the documents reveal, has its origins in the late 1960s, when Lead NCDOT engineer Shigeru Miyamoto was tasked to design it as part of the urban renewal plans of both Greenville and First Ward.
Though just 10 years old at the time and well-before the first Mario Kart game in 1992, the future godfather of Nintendo nevertheless had clear visions of what the rainbow-colored climactic course of each game would look like.
These preemptive visions, it turns out, proved to be a pivotal influence for him while brainstorming 277.
“The freeway should replicate the feeling of floating in deep space or above Earth’s atmosphere,” the obtained NCDOT documents read. “Additionally, it should contain few or no railings, invoking in drivers the real fear of falling into the dark ether below.”
While there was clear pushback from those who questioned the safety of such an idea, cooler heads prevailed to ensure that the blueprints were indeed actualized.
Almost 60 years later, 277 serves as a bastion of human achievement. Its sharp turns along the sweeping and invented contours of the landscape push the very limits of Euclidean geometry and spacetime itself, just like the iconic racing course that inspired it.