Interview with Black Road’s Ed Crundle

I’m excited this week to bring you an interview with Ed Crundle, a road developer on the Red Bug Lake Overpass in Orlando, Florida. Ed is a genuinely brilliant crafter of roads, and he’s known for his “show, don’t tell” philosophy of street signage design.

Ed Crundle, Famous Road Designer. Photo by Bill Ruhsam
Ed Crundle, Famous Road Designer
Photo by Bill Ruhsam

DiehrStraits: What do you do?

Ed Crundle: I’m a road developer & sign engineer for the independent road studio, Black Road Construction.

DS: When did you get started with driving on roads (and what was the first road that you remember)?

EC: I’ve been driving ever since my parents got me a Cozy Coupe for christmas when I was 4. Been driving ever since. The first road I drove on was the road in front of my house – same as most drivers who grew up in the 80s.

DS: How did you get started with developing roads?

EC: When I was in school, I would always scribble roads and highway interchanges on all of my homework. I think my teachers all knew that I was obsessed with roads, then. I made my first road in my backyard with a shovel and a bag of gravel. It wasn’t very good, but I drove on it until it got washed out in a thunderstorm. I’ve been making little roads in my spare time ever since.

DS: How did you get started with Black Road?

EC: I went for a B.S. degree in asphalt engineering at MTU, and I had a good portfolio of my own roads that I’ve worked on, including some great student projects that I did, like the section of road between 4th and 5th along Jefferson street. Harold Carlisle, the CTO at Black Road, reached out to me after he saw some of my roads that I posted on Twitter. I was a good match for the types of projects they had been working on – small, self-contained roads that offer a smooth ride from start to finish.

DS: How many roads have you worked on so far?

EC: Twelve, if you include canceled roads. Since we’re a small construction company, we try to fail fast when we’re building a new road, so that we can put our efforts into only the roads that are really clicking with us. That way we can try out more interesting designs and really break away from the clichés that you always see while driving.

DS: What are the specs on your driving rig?

EC: It’s an 8-cylinders custom Toyota engine, 5.8k RPM overclocked to 6.2k. I like to stay on the cutting edge so that I can drive on the latest roads with maxed-out settings.

DS: What’s it been like working on the Red Bug Lake Overpass?

EC: It’s been great so far. The alpha build has been done for a couple of weeks, and we’ve been having road nights at the studio where we all drive over it for a couple of hours to see how everything is coming together. I think you’ll all have a blast with what we’ve come up with here. The signage will blow your mind when you see it.

The New Overpass Photo by Janne Moren
The New Overpass
Photo by Janne Moren

DS: How did you come up with the concept for this Overpass?

EC: We kind of lucked into it. We were watching Live Free or Die Hard for inspiration, and decided to try our hand at some ramps. There was some open ground in the Red Bug Lake area where we were making our test builds, and we noticed that there was some hype building up at the stoplight nearby. People were interested in what we were building – so we decided to drive with it.

DS: How does your signage philosophy play into the design of this road?

EC: We went with a wide, sweeping on-ramp design to draw the eye to where it needs to be – the apex of the overpass. This is augmented by abstract signs – primary colors and solid black symbols only, no words or numbers. It had to be easy to drive on to, but still rewarding to get over, so there’s a wall along the side so that you can’t see Red Bug Lake Road until after you crest the peak. It’s utterly spellbinding when the sun is rising.

DS: Sounds fantastic, I can’t wait to drive on it. Any words of advice for budding road designers?

EC: Keep your spade handy, and always drive with confidence.

DS: Thanks, Ed!

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