Limited-access road

A limited-access road or controlled-access road is a road to which access from adjacent properties is limited in some way. It can mean anything from a city street to which the maintaining authority limits driveway access to a freeway (or other equivalent terms). The precise definition of these terms varies by jurisdiction. Often, on these kinds of road low-speed vehicles and non-motorized uses including pedestrians, bicycles, and horses, are not permitted.

The concept and various names

Once these first roads were developed many terms have been applied to this type of road over the years. These names differ in various areas based on both local terminology official names. The definitions for these roads varies greatly by country and in the United States, varies greatly by state.

As a result, this concept goes under many names around the world including:

Usage of terms

Road maps generally use either term to indicate freeway standards.

In the United States, the national Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) only uses "full control of access" for freeways. Expressways are defined as having "partial control of access", meaning that major roads typically use interchanges and commercial development is accessed via cross roads or frontage roads, while minor roads can cross at grade and farms can have direct access. This definition is also used by some states, some of which also restrict freeways only to motor vehicles capable of maintaining a certain speed. Some other states use "controlled access" to mean a higher standard than "limited access", while others reverse the two terms.


The concept of limited-access roadways started with the parkway system in the state of New York, in 1907. The New York State Parkway System was a network of high speed roads in and around New York City.

The concept evolved into uninterrupted arterial roads that are commonly known as expressways, motorways, or parkways, among other names both in the US and other countries.


A controlled-access highway is usually a step up from a limited-access highway. These usually feature grade-separated interchanges and frontage roads with ramp access.

When toll booths are placed along the road, they are called toll roads, tollways, or turnpikes, among other names both in the US and other countries.

Dual carriageways (or divided highways) with long intervals between at-grade intersections and no private access may also meet the criteria of being "controlled-access. Such roads may also be called expressways.

One such example is the "Marquette Bypass" on U.S. Route 41 in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The bypass is an expressway in terms of signage, although it has traffic lights at the junctions.


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