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A highway is a main road intended for travel by the public between important destinations, such as cities and towns. Highway designs vary widely and can range from a two-lane road without margins to a multi-lane, grade separated freeway. In law the word highway is often used as a legal term to denote any public road, ranging from freeways to dirt tracks. An interconnected set of highways can be variously referred to as a "highway system", a "highway network" or a "highway transportation system".

The United States has the largest network of highways, including both the Interstate highways and United States Numbered Highways. At least one of these networks is present in every state and connects most major cities. The Expressway Network of the People's Republic of China, also known as National Trunk Highway System (NTHS) has a total length of about 53,600 km at the end of 2007, which is the world's second longest system of expressways only after that of the United States.

Some highways, like the Pan-American Highway or the European routes, bridge multiple countries. Australia's Highway 1 is the longest national highway in the world at over and runs almost the entire way around the country.

Highways are not always continuous stretches of pavement. For example, some highways are interrupted by bodies of water, and ferry routes may serve as sections of the highway.

World records

  • Longest international highway: the Pan-American Highway, which connects many countries in the Americas, is nearly long as of 2005.
  • Longest national highway: Australia's Highway 1 at over 20,000 km (12,427 mi). It runs almost the entire way around the country’s coastline. With the exception of Canberra (which is inland) it links all the capital cities, although Brisbane and Darwin are not directly connected. Also the route links all the major towns and cities of the island state of Tasmania, Burnie, Devonport, Launceston and Hobart (the state’s capital).
  • Longest national highway (Point to point): The Trans-Canada Highway (Known as TCH 1 in western Canada) is 7,821 km (4,857 mi) long as of 2006. It runs across southern Canada and connects with several major urban centres along its longitudinal route.
  • Largest national highway system: The United States of America has approximately of highway within its borders as of 2005.
  • Busiest highway: Highway 401 in Ontario, Canada, has volumes surpassing an average of 500,000 vehicles per day in some sections of Toronto as of 2006.
  • Widest highway (maximum number of lanes): The Katy Freeway (part of Interstate 10) in Houston, Texas, United States of America, has a total of 26 lanes in some sections as of 2007. However, they are divided up into general use/frontage roads/HOV lanes, restricting traffic flow.
  • Widest highway (number of maximum through lanes): Highway 401 through Mississauga, Ontario has the most unrestricted free-flow lanes, at 18 (22 including restricted) as of 2006.

Highway systems by country


In Australia, a highway is a distinct type of road from freeways, expressways and motorways. The word highway is generally used to mean major roads connecting large cities, towns and different parts of metropolitan areas. Metropolitan highways often have traffic lights at intersections, and rural highways usually have only one lane in each direction. The words freeway, expressway or motorway are generally reserved for the most arterial routes, usually with grade-separated intersections and usually significantly straightened and widened to a minimum of four lanes. The term motorway is used in some Australian cities to refer to freeways that have been allocated a metropolitan route number, and in Sydney, a motorway has a toll, whereas a freeway is free of charge. On the Hume Highway when traveling from Melbourne to Sydney there is only one set of traffic signals, found in Holbrook. Roads may be part-highway and part-freeway until they are fully upgraded. The Cahill expressway is the only "named" expressway in New South Wales, which opened in 1954 the first in New South Wales .


Bosnia and Herzegovina

As for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Pan-European Corridor Vc Motorway, Budapest - Osijek - Sarajevo - Ploce, is one of the most significant and project of the highest priority. The construction works on the road have already begun, but intensified beginning of the construction will be a key starter of economic and social activities, and will enable Bosnia and Herzegovina to be connected to main European traffic network, as well as to global European economic and social structure.

Construction of the motorway, whose total length is 340 km, will provide: rational connecting to neighboring countries and regions; stabilizing and developing effects will be reached; transport conditions and quality of life improvement; economy competitiveness enhancement; new projects launched and national and international private investments enhancement.


In Brazil, highways (or expressway/freeway) are named "rodovia", and Brazilian highways are divided in two types: regional highways (generally of less importance and entirely inside of one state) and national highways (of major importance to the country). In Brazil, rodovia is the name given exclusively to roads connecting two or more cities with a sizable distance separating the extremes of the highway. Urban highways for commuting are uncommon in Brazil, and when they are present, they receive different names, depending of the region (Avenida, Marginal, Linha, Via, Eixo, etc). Very rarely names other than "rodovia" are used.

Regional highways are named YY-XXX, where YY is the abbreviation of the state where the highway is running in and XXX is a number (e.g. SP-280; where SP means that the highway is running entirely in the state of São Paulo).

National highways are named BR-XXX. National highways connects multiples states altogether, are of major importance to the national economy and/or connects Brazil to another country. The meaning of the numbers are:

  • 001-100 - it means that the highway runs radially from Brasília. It is an exception to the cases below.
  • 101-200 - it means that the highway runs in a south-north way.
  • 201-300 - it means that the highway runs in a west-east way
  • 301-400 - it means that the highway runs in a diagonal way (northwest-southeast, for example)
  • 400-499 - another exception, they are less important highways and its function is to connect a city to an arterial highway nearby

Often, Brazilian highways receive names (famous people, etc) their YY/BR-XXX designation (example: SP-280 is also known as Rodovia Castelo Branco).


  • In Canada, there is no national standard for nomenclature, although in non-technical contexts highway appears to be most popular in most areas. The general speed limits on most Canadian highways range between on two-lane highways, and between on multi-lane, divided highways.
  • Canada is the second largest country in the world in terms of land area, though it only has 415,581 kilometers (258,242 miles) of paved roads. This is far less than Canada's neighbor to the South which is smaller but has more than 2,500,000 miles (4,000,000 kilometers) of paved roads, but still more than Russia, the largest country in the world, with an estimated 336,000 kilometers (208,000 miles) of paved roads.
  • The most extensive freeway networks are in eastern Canada, linking southern Ontario and Quebec with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. This makes the existing networks extremely well traveled, especially in the country's south, requiring these routes to be well maintained and wide enough to accommodate the volume they carry to prevent the economical problems resulting from traffic congestion and safe enough to minimize vehicle accidents.
  • In Ontario, all public roads are legally defined as highways, though provincially managed roads are known legally as the King's Highways. In day-to-day usage, the term highway is used for provincial routes. It is also common for surface routes to be referred to by the phrase number (e.g. "Take Number 10 from Mississauga to Owen Sound"), especially by older generations. The words freeway or expressway are sometimes used to refer to controlled-access, high-speed, grade-separated highways such as the 400-series highways, the Conestoga Parkway, the Don Valley Parkway, or the E.C. Row Expressway. The only highway officially labeled as a freeway is the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway, usually known as Highway 401, or simply "the 401", which is North America's busiest highway and the widest highway in the world at points at 9 lanes in each direction. Nearly all highways in Ontario use parclo interchanges, which were developed by the province. Parclos are able to avoid weaving, but maximize efficiency and safety.
  • In Quebec, major highways are called autoroutes in French, and expressways or autoroutes in English.
  • Nova Scotia numbers its highways by the routes they parallel, for example, Highway 107 parallels Trunk 7. This, to a lesser extent, also applies in Ontario (e.g. Highway 410 and Highway 420 parallel Highway 10 and Highway 20.) Nova Scotia also numbers their highways according to usage: main arterial highways are in the 100s, secondary or old arterial highways are numbered in the double digits from 1 to 28, and collector roads are numbered in the triple digits starting at 200.
  • The Trans-Canada Highway, the highway that crosses the entire country and enters all ten provinces. It ranges from a wilderness two-lane highway to a multi-lane urban superhighway. There are three ferry routes along the Trans-Canada Highway, allowing the route to connect to Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and Vancouver Island, although the Confederation Bridge allows ferry-less passage to Prince Edward Island. Since the Trans-Canada Highway is not a divided route for the majority of its length, it is considered more of an equivalent to the U.S. route network in the neighbouring United States, with Ontario's 400-series, Quebec's autoroutes, New Brunswick's portion of the Trans-Canada Highway, and Nova Scotia's 100-series highways being inter-connected provincial equivalents to the United States' Interstate Highway System.


Chile has a large Highway coverage which connects the whole country but with the exception of the Magallanes Region.

China, People's Republic

"Highways" in China, more often than not, refer to China National Highways. The fully controlled-access, multi-lane, central-separation routes are instead called expressways. As of 2005, there were 1.55 million km of highways and 42,000 km of expressways in China; both total lengths are second only to the United States.

In Mainland China, private companies reimbursed through tolls are the primary means of creating and financing the National Trunk Highway System (NTHS).

Expressways are lumped with first-grade G-prefixed guodaos (国道, or "national highway") or A-prefixed first-grade expressways in major municipal cities. All roads in the NTHS and most A-prefixed roads are expressways.

  • M-prefix: National (Trunk) Expressways (planned)
  • G-prefix: National highways (typically expressways)
  • A-prefix: Municipal highways (typically expressways)
  • S-prefix: Provincial highways
  • X-prefix: County highways
  • Y-prefix: Rural roads
  • Z-prefix: Special use roads (e.g., airport expressways)

Some highways are numbered with a leading zero (e.g. G030).

The term Freeway during the 1990s was used on a few expressways (such as the Jingshi Freeway). The term freeway has since been replaced with expressway on all signs in China. The Chinese name for expressways is uniform; in pinyin, it is gaosu gonglu, which literally means "high speed public road".

Signs on the National Highways (G-prefix) are green, while on the lower-grade highways and urban expressways (A-prefix) are blue.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, the type of high speed roads is referred to as expressway, but some are named as highways or roads ('Yuen Long Highway', 'Tolo Highway', 'Tsuen Wan Road', 'Tuen Mun Road', etc.). Some others are named corridors and bypasses.


Croatia has 9 highways and 8 expressways. The earliest highway in Croatia was built in 1971.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica have more than 5 main highway. The most important is the Pan-American Highway (Route 1 and Route 2), known locally as "Interamericana", that communicate Nicaragua and Panama. San José is on the middle of the Pan-American Highway, and such cities as San Pedro and Curridabat have it as the main street. Other important highway in Costa Rica is the Paseo de la Segunda República, that link Guadalupe with La Uruca, crossing Sabanilla, San Pedro, Zapote, Desamparados, San Sebastian, Alajuelita, Hatillos, Santa Ana and Escazú; without passing the downtown of San José. Now, Costa Rican government is improving this highway by the construction of tunnels or bridges.


France has a national highway system dating back to Louis XV (see Corps of Ponts et Chaussées). The chaussées constructed at this time, radiating out from Paris, form the basis for the "routes nationales" (RN), whose red numbers differ from the yellow numbering used for secondary "routes departementales". The RNs numbered from 1 to 20 radiate from Paris to major ports or border crossings. More recently (after the Second World War), France has constructed Autoroutes, superhighways (usually toll) with a speed limit of 130 km/h (110 in rainy conditions or urban areas).


Aside from highways bearing the Autobahn designation, Germany has many two- and four-lane roads. Federal highways not known as autobahns are called Bundesstraßen (Bundesstrassen) and, while usually two-lane roads, they may also be four-lane, limited-access expressways of local or regional importance. Unlike the Autobahns, though, Bundesstraßen (marked by black numbers on a yellow background) mostly have speed limits (usually 100 km/h, but occasionally higher on limited-access segments, and lower in urban areas or near intersections).


Hungary has 7 major motorways ("autópálya"):

  • M0 is a quasi-circular highway for the traffic bypasing Budapest. It is divided in 4 sectors: Southern (links motorways M1, M7, M6 and M5), South-eastern (links Motorway M5 and Main Road nr. 4), Eastern (links Main Road nr. 4 and Motorway M3), Northern (links Main Road nr. 2 with the Megyeri Bridge) and Western (to be finished in 2015; will link main roads 11, 11 and Motorway M1). The total length will be around 100 km.
  • M1: links Budapest and the north-western border with Austria (Hegyeshalom), then continues its way toward Vienna. The total length is around 170 km.
  • M3: links Budapest and the north-eastern city of Miskolc (M30 branch), eastern cities of Nyíregyháza (M3) and Debrecen (M35 branch). Provides links toward Slovakia, Ukraine and Romania. It has a total length of around 250 km.
  • M5: links Budapest and the southern city of Szeged, then the Serbian border (Röszke). It provides a connection to Southern Europe by route E75 and also links to route 68 in Romania. M5 motorway has a length of around 140 km.
  • M7: links Budapest and the southern shore of Lake Balaton, then continues its way toward Croatia and Slovenia. Its length is about 230 km.
  • M6: links Budapest and Dunaújváros, then will continue its way toward the southern city of Pécs. The current length is around 60 km.

Also, there are other smaller motorway sections that will be linked to the national motorway network in the future. See here an animation of Hungarian motorway developments (past, present and future): "Térkép animáció" Motorways usually have 2 traffic lanes and an emergency lane on each direction, divided by a green zone and metallic rail. The speed limit is 130 km/h.

Expressways usually have no dividing lane in the middle, but sometimes have a metallic rail. The number of lanes is one per direction, with sections of 1+2 lanes (for easier overtaking). The speed limit is 110 km/h. Motorways and expressways cannot be used by vehicles that are not able to reach 60 km/h. There is a toll on all motorways, except M0. Trucks and buses have a separate toll system. ()

Main roads usually have one lane per direction, no dividing rail. The speed limit is 90 km/h.

County roads have less traffic then main roads, the speed limit is 90 km/h.


In India, 'Highway' refers to one of the many National Highways that run up to a total length of about 67,000 km consisting mostly of 2 lane paved roads, changing into higher lanes mostly within cities. An expressway refers to any elevated road with grade-separated intersections. As of 2005, there were about 200 km of expressways in India. The NHAI (National Highway Authority of India) has put all the highway and expressway projects on the fast track and by 2010 plans to cover every corner of India through the highway system. Highways in India are designated as NH followed by the number. The four major cities in India- Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Delhi- are now connected by the Golden Quadrilateral. A system roughly shaped in a diamond form that consists of 4 to 6 laned roads.


The Republic of Ireland has a similar system to the United Kingdom except that its major roads are classed as 'N' road or 'R' road rather than 'A' road/'B' road as in the UK.



In Italy the term highway can be applied to superstrada (can be translated as expressway) and autostrada (Italian term for motorway): this country was the first one in the world to build such roads.


The expressways, or kōsokudōro (high speed roads), of Japan are made of a huge network of freeway-standard toll roads. Once government-owned, they have been a turned over to private companies. Most expressways are four lanes with a central reservation, or median. The speed limits, with certain regulations and great flexibility, usually include a maximum speed of 100 km/h, and a minimum speed of 50 km/h. There are also expresways not able to classified as national or urban expressways.


The highest level of major roads in Malaysia, expressway (lebuhraya), has full access control, grade separated junctions, and mostly tolled. The expressways link the major state capitals in Peninsular Malaysia and major cities in Klang Valley.

Highway is lower level with limited access control, some at-grade junctions or roundabouts, and generally with 2 lanes in each separated direction. These are generally untolled and funded by the federal government, hence the first one is called Federal Highway linking Klang and Kuala Lumpur.

The trunk roads linking major cities and towns in the country are called federal trunk roads, and are generally 2 lanes single carriageway roads, in places with a third climbing lane for slow lorries.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, both motorway and an expressway have at least two-lanes of traffic in either direction separated by a median, with no access to adjacent properties. The distinction depends on the type of traffic allowed to use the route. Non-vehicular traffic and farm-equipment are prohibited from motorways, while pedestrians, cyclists, tractors, and farm animals are legally entited to use expressways such as the Waikato Expressway south of the Bombay Hills and the Tauranga expressway system, although this is rare. New Zealand's main routes are designated state highways as they are funded by the National Government. State Highway 1 is the only route to run through both the North and South Islands, and runs (in order north-south) from Cape Reinga to Wellington in the North Island, and from Picton to Bluff in the South Island. State Highways 2-5 are main routes in the North Island, State Highways 6-9 in the South Island, and state highways numbered from 10 onwards are generally found in numerical order from north to south. State highways usually incorporate different standards of roads, for example, State Highway 1 from Auckland to Hamilton incorporates the Northern and Southern Motorways in the Auckland area, the Waikato Expressway, and a rural road before passing through the streets of Hamilton. The term freeway is rarely used relating to New Zealand roads, and can only be considered an Americanism.

The Netherlands

The Autosnelweg system is in constant development. Most of its parts are owned and funded by the government but in recent times Public-private partnership come more and more into fashion, like a part of the A59 between Oss and 's-Hertogenbosch. The Netherlands has the highest density highway network of Europe at 56.5 km per 1000 km², followed by Belgium. The 'Autosnelwegen', the main corridors, are designated with and A while the minor connecting roads have an N number. Sections of the A network are also part of the International E-road network in connecting with neighboring Belgium, Germany and England, the latter by ferry. The speed limit is 120 km/h unless noted otherwise so mostly 100 km/h in urban areas and 80 km/h in inner cities. This is done to protect the environment and limit noise to surrounding residential areas albeit to not effective. At this lower speed there is more congestion resulting in more noise instead of less.



Pakistan has its own network of highways and motorways. Motorways extending from M1 to M10 will eventually connect whole length of the country from Peshawar to Karachi. The first motorway, the M2 was built in 1997 with the contract being awarded to the Korean firm Daewoo. It linked the federal capital Islamabad with Punjab's provincial capital Lahore. The network was then extended to Sargodha and then to Faisalabad with the M3. M1 highway to the North-West Frontier Province's capital Peshawar had been completed in October 2007. M4, M5, M6 and M7 have been planned and also being built by local and foreign firms. This will connect Faisalababd, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rotadero (Larkana) to Karachi. N5 links Karachi to other cities. Entry on all Pakistan highways is restricted to fast moving wheelers only. Slow-moving traffic and two wheelers (such as motorcycles and bicycles) are not allowed and construction and agricultural machinery is also restricted. Highway Police personnel use heavy motor bikes and fast moving Range Rovers for patrolling and are quite good at maintaining the traffic system. M9 and M10 are also functional now that connect Karachi to Hayderabad. The LSM (Lahore Sialkot Motorway) which is 103 km is under construction and will be completed by 2010.


Many Philippine expressways are privately owned and maintained. All are located in the largest island, Luzon. They follow the US Interstate Highway Standards and speed limits are strictly enforced. The most modern and the longest expressway, the North Luzon Expressway links the capital, Manila to other provinces in Northern Luzon while the South Luzon Expressway links Manila with provinces on the Southern Luzon.

Presently, all Philippine expressways are under rehabilitation to decrease the occurrence of traffic jams and to improve their quality. They are widened and improved of standards.

There are only seven tollways in Luzon Island, the North Luzon Expressway (connecting Manila to North Luzon), the South Luzon Expressway (connecting Manila to Southern Luzon), the Roman Expressway (in Bataan peninsula), Subic Freeport Expressway (connecting Subic Freeport to Dinalupihan), the Southern Tagalog Access Road (STAR Tollway) (connecting Sto. Tomas to Batangas Port, to decongest the Port of Manila and it will be connected directly to South Luzon Expressway), and the Manila-Cavite Expressway, connecting Metro Manila with the Province of Cavite, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (connecting the existing Subic Freeport Expressway to Clark Zone and Hacienda Luisita and also extending North Luzon Expressway to Tarlac City but it has 3 km gap between NLEx and SCTEx).

Despite that many highways in Metro Manila, there are still two lane and one way roads like national and provincial roads around the country.

There are plans to extend the existing expressways and to build a new one throughout the Philippines, the Tarlac-La Union Expressway aims to extend North Luzon Expressway to the area near Poro Point but it will be extended initially to Rosario in La Union, Tarlac-Dingalan Expressway aims to convert Dingalan into an International Pacific Port and to decongest the Port of Manila, The Cebu Trans-Axial Expressway aims to benefit Cebu's economy and to decongest the island's coastal road and to protect Cebu's coastal areas from severe exploitation, North East Luzon Expressway aims to connect Metro Manila to Cagayan Valley but it will be built initially to Nueva Ecija. South Luzon Expressway will be extended towards Lucena City.



Russia has many highways, but only small number of them are currently expressways. Examples of Russian expressways are Moscow and Saint Petersburg Ring Roads.


The expressways of Singapore are all dual carriageways with grade-separated access. They usually have three lanes in each direction, although there are two- or four-lane carriageways in some places. There are nine expressways, with another one, the Marina Coastal Expressway, currently under construction.

Construction on the first expressway, the Pan Island Expressway, started in 1966. The other expressways were completed in stages, with the first phase of the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway being the most recently completed, in 2007. Today, there are 92.5 miles (148km) of expressways in Singapore.

South Africa

Colloquially, the terms "freeway", "highway", and "motorway" are used synonymously. There are very few references to the term "expressway" in South Africa. A freeway, highway or motorway refers to a divided dual carriageway with limited access, and at least two lanes in either direction. A central island, usually either with drainage, foliage or high-impact barriers, provides a visible separation between carriageways in opposite directions. As with the UK,Ireland & Australia, South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road and all steering wheels are on the right-hand side of vehicles.

Freeways are designated with one of three labels: N (in reference to national roads), R (short for "route", in reference to provincial roads), and M (in reference to metropolitan roads). This has more to do with the location of a road and its function than anything else. In addition, "N" roads usually run the length of the country over long distances, "R" roads usually inter-connect cities and towns within a province, and "M" roads carry heavy traffic in metropolitan areas. Route markings also determine who paid for the road: "N" was paid for by national government, "R" by provincial government and "M" by local government. In recent years, some "R" roads have been re-designated as "N" roads, so that control and funding comes from the South African National Roads Agency.

South Korea

Expressways in South Korea were originally numbered in order of construction. Since August 24, 2001, they have been numbered in a scheme somewhat similar to that of the Interstate Highway System in the United States:

  • Arterial routes are designated by two-digit route numbers, with north-south routes having odd numbers, and east-west routes having even numbers. Primary routes (i.e. major thoroughfares) have five and zero as their last digits respectively, while lesser (secondary) routes have various final digits.
  • Branch routes have three-digit route numbers, where the first two digits match the route number of an arterial route.
  • Belt lines have three-digit route numbers where the first digit matches the respective city's postal code.
  • Route numbers in the range 70-99 are not used in South Korea and are reserved for designations in the event of Korean reunification.
  • The Gyeongbu Expressway kept its Route 1 designation, as it is South Korea's first and most important expressway.


Spain's national highway system dates back to the era of King Carlos III. The roads built at this time, radiating from Madrid, form the basis for the carreteras nacionales radiales, numbered clockwise from I to VI, which radiate from Madrid to major ports or border crossings. In the 1960s Spain constructed autopistas (toll highways) and autovias, and nowadays (2005) has 15,000 km of highways.



The term Autobahn (German) / Autoroute (French) / Autostrada (Italian) is used for normal expressways where there is a central physical structure separating two different directional carriageways. This is often translated into English as motorway.

In express routes where there is no central physical structure separating two different directional carriageways, but crossings are still motorway-like otherwise, and traffic lights are not present, the road is instead called an Autostrasse / Semi-autoroute / Semi-autostrada, translated into English as a motorroad. Those often have a lower speed limit than motorways.


Turkey's main highway is E80 (former E5) runs from Edirne to the capital Ankara.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, unless a route is classified as a motorway, the term used may be main road, trunk road, 'A' road/'B' road, or, where appropriate, dual carriageway. In the law of England and Wales the term highway covers rights of way open to all traffic (as opposed to a footpath for pedestrians or a bridleway for those users plus equestrians), to a byway open for all traffic (for all the aforementioned users, plus any motorised user), to unclassified county roads, classified roads, trunk roads, motorways and special roads. In British law, there is no definition of "road", and generally the most common usage refers to:

In England and Wales the public are said to have a "right of way" over a Highway. This means that, subject to statutory restrictions, the route must be kept clear to allow travel by anyone who wishes to it. At common law, it is forbidden to obstruct a highway or interfere with passage. However, many statutory provisions provide powers to do so (for instance to carry out road works). Rights of way exist both over roads maintained at the public expense (the majority of roads) and over some roads on private property. In this case, the owner must allow passage over the highway. A right of way may be created by custom (i.e. the road has been used for a long period of time) or under the relevant positions of the Highways Act 1980. A right of way may by only be extinguished or diverted by or under an Act of Parliament. For instance, under the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996 authority is given for the builder of the rail link to stop up certain highways mentioned in Schedule 3 of the act.

The contrast to a Highway is a private road over which no right of way exists. Travel on a private road is subject to the consent of the owner of the land.

United States

In the United States, "highway" is a general term for denoting a public way, including the entire area within the right-of-way, and includes many forms:

  1. a high-speed, limited-access road like expressways and freeways.
  2. an important road that connects cities.
  3. any road at all

Many highways are part of the official National Highway System.

The familiarity of the Interstate Highway system implies "highway" describes any freeway, regardless of whether it is part of the Interstate Highway system.

However, the United States Numbered Highways system, which predates Interstate Highways, can vary from 2 lanes (1 lane each direction), shoulderless, paved roads with no access control to roads built to the same standards as Interstate Highways. These roads are usually distinguished by being important, but not always primary, routes that connect populated areas.

"Highway" even includes roads that serve similar purposes to United States numbered highways but which are numbered and maintained by state or local governments.

In some places, "highway" is a synonym for "road" or "street". For example, California Motor Vehicle Code § 360 states: "'Highway' is a way or place of whatever nature, publicly maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel. Highway includes street."

Today, many of the highways in the United States of America are made of concrete and use outdated freeway interchanges. The government is trying to improve its national roadway system by repaving highways and reconstructing various interchanges. Many cloverleaf interchanges are being converted to parclo interchanges, based on the well-received Canadian Ministry of Transportation (Ontario)'s models or other variations. Busy Diamond interchanges are also being converted to SPUIs (single-point-urban interchange) or parclos to reduce congestion.

Arguably, the most famous United States highway is U.S. Route 66. It is immortalized in the song "(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66." Other famous highways of song include Highway 61 (Bob Dylan, 1965), Carefree Highway in Arizona (Gordon Lightfoot, 1974), Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California (Jan & Dean, also Beach Boys, 1964), Ventura Highway in California (America, 1972), and Blues Highway in Mississippi (Fred McDowell, 1959).


Zimbabwe uses 2 types of highway. These are called: Autofamba and Autoruwendo. Zimbabwe has an excellent road network, but it is poorly maintained.

Social and environmental effects of highways

By reducing travel times relative to arterial streets, highways have a positive effect upon balance of leisure or productive time through reduced commute and other travel time. However, highways have criticisms, partially due to being an extended linear source of pollution:

  • Community cohesion: Where highways are created through existing communities, there can be reduced community cohesion and more difficult local access. Consequently property values have decreased in many cutoff neighborhoods, leading to decreased housing quality over time.
  • Roadway noise: Highways generate more roadway noise than arterial streets due to the higher operating speeds. Therefore, considerable noise health effects are expected from highway systems. Noise mitigation strategies exist to reduce sound levels at nearby sensitive receptors. The idea that highway design could be influenced by acoustical engineering considerations first arose about 1973.
  • Air quality issues: Highways may contribute fewer emissions than arterials carrying the same vehicle volumes. This is because high, constant-speed operation creates an emissions reduction compared to vehicular flows with stops and starts. However, concentrations of air pollutants near highways may be higher due to increased traffic volumes. Therefore, the risk of exposure to elevated levels of air pollutants from a highway may be considerable, and further magnified when highways have traffic congestion.
  • New roads can create new traffic, sometimes referred to as induced demand. If not accurately predicted at the planning stage, this extra traffic may lead to the new road becoming congested sooner than anticipated. More roads add on to car-dependence. This may mean that by building a new road, there is only short-term mitigation of traffic congestion. In the long-term, even more cars may take over the excess road space - which exacerbates the problem. The induced demand phrase is often used as a catch-all phrase by proponents of freeway revolt.
  • HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes are being added to some newer/reconstructed highways in North America and other countries around the world to encourage carpooling and mass-transit. These lanes help reduce the number of cars on the highway and thus reduces pollution and traffic congestion by promoting the use of carpooling in order to be able to use these lanes. However, they tend to require dedicated lanes on a highway which makes them difficult to construct in dense urban areas, where they are the most effective.

To quote the Ontario Ministry of Transportation:

''"HOV lanes are a critical part of the Province’s transportation strategy because of their ability to increase the efficiency of Ontario’s transportation system. HOV lanes have proven to be a successful strategy in many North American cities for moving more people and increasing the efficiency of the transportation network. An HOV lane has the ability to move as many people as four general-purpose lanes.

New highways can also cause habitat fragmentation, encourage urban sprawl and allow human intrusion into previously untouched areas, as well as (counterintuitively) increasing congestion, by increasing the number of intersections. They can also reduce the use of public transport, indirectly leading to greater pollution.

Further information

For information on the history and local styles of highways around the world, refer to:


See also

External links

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