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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A sign on the Hampton Roads Beltway in Virginia, United States, traveling on the outer loop (counterclockwise).

A beltway, loop (American English), ring road, or orbital motorway (British English) is a circumferential highway found around or within many cities.

Beltway, orbital motorway, perimeter loop, beltline, and similar terms refer to an expressway/motorway/freeway style standard road that often originally enclosed the built up area and was later encroached upon by developed areas.

Ring road may sometimes refer to a beltway-style road, but more commonly indicates a road or series of roads within a city or town that have been joined together by town planners to form an orbital distributor style road, but where the standard of road could be anything from an ordinary city street up to an expressway level. The principal difference is that a ring road is an orbital distributor road system designed from already existing roads, as opposed to a beltway which is designed from new as such a road system. A ring road designation also implies a more inner-city road designed to route traffic around a city centre, as opposed to routing traffic around a larger conurbation.

Many beltway-style roads are part of a wider highway system; for example, in the United States, beltways are commonly a part of the Interstate Highway System. Where the routes come full circle, using inner/outer directions is a common way of uniformly signing the directions of travel on beltways in America, as the usual compass directions (e.g., eastbound) become meaningless in a full loop.

In the United States, beltway also has a political connotation (e.g., politics inside the Beltway), derived metonymically from the Capital Beltway encircling Washington, D.C.

Geography can sometimes complicate the construction of a beltway. One example is Stockholm, where there is a semi-beltway (Essingeleden). To be completed, most of it will have to run in submarine tunnels.

Many cities and metropolitan areas deal with ring roads and beltways in unique ways, giving the roads recognizable differences. Some cities have elected to construct multiple ring roads and beltways.

For a full listing of beltways, see List of beltways.

Loop route

A loop route is a highway or other major road that extends out from a typically longer, more important parent road to enter and (usually) circle a large city. A loop can function as a bypass for through traffic and also to service outlying suburbs.

Loops are prominent features in many large cities in the United States. A three-digit interstate that is a loop is usually designated by an even-digit before the number of its parent interstate. Many cities in the United States have a two-loop design where there is an outer loop, an inner loop, and interstates coming in to the city and going through the loops. Loop routes sometimes use inner/outer directions as opposed to cardinal directions since the latter cannot be signed uniformly around the entire loop. In a few rare instances, loop routes can be a type of special route that splits from the parent and loops around a populated area, offering two bypasses.

Loops are less common in the United Kingdom; there is only one loop motorway, the M621.


See also



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun




  1. A 64-mile Interstate freeway surrounding Washington, D.C..



  1. Of or relating to the culture of Washington, D.C.; politicized.
    Your New Yorker article posed the question, "Can the president's education crusade survive Beltway politics?" [1]

See also


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