How can I find the fastest path by car to reach a US state from a given US location? I.e., I'm located at address x and I want to know the minimum driving time to reach US state y.

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    I am curious, why a whole state and any place within that state? – Willeke Sep 16 '20 at 18:52
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    Nope. Drill down until the map display shows the actual border, then right-click to place a "Directions to this Location" pin at that location. You'll easily be able to get the destination within meters of the border. – DavidSupportsMonica Sep 16 '20 at 19:26
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    @FranckDernoncourt A country has at best a few dozen commercial airports. There are an infinite number of geographic coordinates along a border. – choster Sep 16 '20 at 20:18
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    If you restrict the problem to interstates only, it might be possible but there are usually lots of roads that cross US state borders. Routing problems are notoriously difficult to solve. – mkennedy Sep 16 '20 at 20:49
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    There are some obvious common-sense heuristics, of course... since travel is usually fastest via major highways, identify the (relatively small number of) major highways that enter the state from the general direction of your starting point, find the point where each one crosses the state line, compute travel times to those points, and take the minimum. – Nate Eldredge Sep 16 '20 at 22:10
  1. Open google maps
  2. Get directions by car from your starting point to somewhere (anywhere) in your target state
  3. Slowly drag the destination marker around along the state borders and watch the duration shown in the tooltip
  4. Use your mind to keep track of when the duration is lowest
  5. You have found your answer

This has been something that I have often wished existed (although for me it's usually at the US county level). I don't have a perfect solution, but I do have one that in practice works fairly well. In other words, if your goal is a systematic solution a la a mathematical proof, this isn't the answer you're looking for. On the other hand, if you just want a functional answer, I think this one's usually good enough.

Let's say that you're in Mason City, IA, and you want to get to Illinois (I chose one that's kind of diagonal to make it interesting).

  • By eye draw a line from Mason city to the IL border
  • Look around and find 3-5 cities across the border near that location on the map. I chose Rockford, Sterling, and Moline. (first image)
  • Use google maps to find directions to each of those locations. Note the border crossing in each case. (second image)
  • Find directions from the starting point to the border crossing in each case. The times to the border for me were: Rockford: 2:47, Sterling: 3:31, Moline: 3:28. The route to Rockford wins.
  • Now we have a pretty good idea that the US-20 bridge on the Mississippi river in Dubuque is probably the fastest way to the border. That said, one could continue to iterate by choosing more cities this time all very close to Dubuque. (You generally only have to do this in the eastern US where roads are laid out less systematically. Image 1 Image 2
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    One thing that makes your example less interesting, actually, is that there is one point in Illinois that is significantly closer to your origin than any other point in Illinois. This minimizes the number of potential alternate routes. The quickest route from Maquoketa to Illinois is a much more interesting problem, at least at first glance. Do you go via Dubuque? Davenport? Clinton? Bellvue? – phoog Sep 17 '20 at 4:46
  • @phoog very true -- I was mostly just going for a proof of concept. And of course things like the Kansas Cities, where things get exceptionally complex! – Bunji Sep 17 '20 at 5:19
  • Oh dear, I didn't think about that at all. But I should have: I live in New York City, where for some neighborhoods the quickest route to New Jersey or Connecticut will be different at different times of day. – phoog Sep 17 '20 at 22:21

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