A highway is a main road for travel by the public between important destinations, such as cities, large towns, and states. Highway designs vary widely and can range from a two-lane road without margins to a multi-lane, grade-separated expressway, freeway, or motorway. In English, British, and American law, the word "highway" is sometimes used to denote any public way used for travel, whether major highway, freeway, street, lane, alley, pathway, dirt track, footpaths, and trails, and navigable waterways. However, in practical and useful meaning, a "highway" is a major and significant, well-constructed road that is capable of carrying reasonably-heavy to extremely-heavy traffic. Examples of these in North America include the U.S. Highways, the Trans-Canada Highway, the Interstate Highways, State Highways, and Canadian Provincial Highways. Any 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 world's largest network of highways, including both the Interstate Highway System and the U.S. Highway System. At least one of these networks is present in every state and they interconnect most major cities.
China's highway network is the second most extensive in the world, with a total length of about 3.573 million km. China's expressway network is also the second longest in the world, and it is quickly expanding, stretching some 60,300 km at the end of 2008, In 2008 alone, 6,433 km expressways were added to the network.
In the United Kingdom, the term "highway" is ambiguous and not in common use, usually reserved for historic or legal use (see public highway). The terms main road and motorway are more common. Any classification of a road as a "highway" there, and therefore any statistics about the total length of a highway network there, is purely subjective.
Some highways, like the Pan-American Highway or the European routes, span multiple countries. Australia's Highway 1 is the longest national highway in the world at over 20,000 km (12,000 mi) and runs almost the entire way around the continent.
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. An example of this is U.S. Route 10, which crosses Lake Michigan via ferryboat.
By reducing travel times relative to city or town 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:
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.
– Ontario Ministry of Transportation, High Occupancy Vehicle Lane Network Plan
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.
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 .
Belgium has the highest density highway network of Europe following The Netherlands at 54.7 km per 1000 km². Most of its highways have three lanes with a few exceptions like the ring-roads around Brussels and Antwerp which have five or six lanes in various stretches. Belgium is situated at a crossroads of several different countries, and its highways are used by people of many nationalities. In Belgium the highways are indicated by the letter "A" and an E(uropean) number. The E numbers are used most often. Roads that are (part of) a ring-road around a city or a town are usually indicated by an R number. Many of the highways in Belgium are illuminated at night, since there is a surplus of nuclear electric power during the off-peak hours.
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; in Bosnia and Herzegovina it coincides with A1 Motorway. 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:
Often, Brazilian highways receive names (famous people, etc) their YY/BR-XXX designation (example: SP-280 is also known as Rodovia Castelo Branco).
Since the Trans-Canada Highway is not a divided, multi-lane highway for the majority of its route, it is considered to be more of an equivalent to the U.S. Route highway network in the neighboring United States of America. On the other hand, Ontario's 400-series expressways, Quebec's autoroutes, New Brunswick's portion of the Trans-Canada, and Nova Scotia's 100-series highways are provincial equivalents to the Interstate Highway System. The Canadian expressways interconnect with each other across provincial lines, and also with the American Interstate system. For example, expressways in Québec connect Montreal with the American border, and thence Interstate 87 continues from there to New York City, and likewise, Toronto is connected to the border by Ontario expressways, and thence by Interstate 190 to Buffalo, New York.
Chile has a large Highway coverage which connects the whole country but with the exception of the Magallanes Region.
"Highways" in China, more often than not, refer to China National Highways. The fully controlled-access, multi-lane, divided routes are instead called expressways. As of 2008, there were 3.573 million km of highways and 60,300 km of expressways in China; both total lengths are second only to the United States.
Expressways are lumped with first-grade G-prefixed guódào (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.
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 gāosù gōnglù, 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.
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.
In Colombia are managed by the Colombian Ministry of Transport through the National Institute of Roads. Colombia's road infrastructure is still very underdeveloped with most of the highways presenting a two lane road for outbound and inbound traffic. Some exceptions are the Highways of the Valle del Cauca, an infrastructure improvement project started about a decade ago which has not yet been entirely finished. Nowadays, the direct public funding on highways is very limited, focused mostly in the recovering of old roads and the construction of 3,125 km of roads (The 2500 Plan).
The most important projects under negotiation or construction are La Ruta del Sol (the Sun Road), a 4-lane highway between Bogota and the Caribbean coast; the Highway between Bogota and Buenaventura (Colombia's largest and busiest port) which includes a 9 km tunnel.
Croatia has 13 highways and 10 expressways. The earliest highway in Croatia was built in 1971. The word highway is a common Croatian translation of the term autocesta, which describes a toll highway similar to a freeway or an Autobahn.
The Czech Republic has 6 motorways and numerous expressways. The earliest Czech highway was built in 1939. The word highway is a common Czech translation of the term dálnice, which describes a toll highway similar to a freeway or an Autobahn.
With the completion in the past decade or so of some extremely-long highway bridge-tunnels it is now possible to drive back and forth between the mainland of Denmark ("Jutland") and the major island of the east where the capital city of Copenhagen is located. Also, there is now a bridge-tunnel that connects that major island with Sweden and its highway system (and also its railroad system). Thus, it is now possible to drive from Denmark not only to Germany, but to Sweden, too. Those bridge-tunnels are all interconnected within Denmark by major highways. These bridges, tunnels, and highways now make it possible to drive from northern Sweden to Gibraltar at the southern edge of Spain or to Messina, Italy, at the southern tip of the Italian "boot".
The national highways in Finland are numbered 1-29 and are in total 9.000 km long. This number system originates from 1938.
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"):
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 or State Highways that run up to a total length of about 67,000 km consisting mostly of two-lane paved roads, changing into higher lanes mostly around cities. National Highways are designated as NH followed by the number. As of 2009, the four major cities in India – Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, and Delhi – are connected by the Golden Quadrilateral, a set of highways forming a rough quadrilateral that consists of 4 to 6 laned roads. Other major cities are connected to it by the North-South and East-West Corridor.
An expressway refers to any access controlled road with grade-separated intersections and make up a very small portion of India's highway network, at about 200 km in length.. Expressways are separate from the highway network, except for the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, which is part of NH 8.
In Italy the term highway can be applied to superstrada (can be translated as expressway and it is toll free) and autostrada (Italian term for motorway: the most part of the system it is mandatory toll). Italy was the first country in the world to build such roads, the first one being the "Autostrada dei Laghi" (Autostrada of the Lakes), from Milan to Varese, built in 1921 and finished in 1924. This system of early motorways was extended in the early 1930s till the early 1970s. Now days the Autostrade is a comprehensive system of about 6.500 km of modern motorways where the maximum speed limit is 130 km/h.
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.
This is a list of numbered federal highways (carreteras federales) in Mexico. Federal Highways from north to south are assigned odd numbers; highways from west to east are assigned even numbers. The numbering schema starts in the northwest of the country (Tijuana, BC). This list identifies the road terminus always starting from the north or the west end of the highway.
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.
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 practice, such as in 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 an 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, and 100 km/h or 80 km/h on various locations. This is done to "protect the environment" and to limit noise to surrounding residential areas, albeit not too effective a measure.
Norway has a national highway system, numbered 2-899. Some main highways are also European highways and have an E before the number. The highways are often relatively narrow and curvy. Near the larger cities, especially around Oslo and Trondheim, there are motorways. Norway has also been engaged in recent decades in boring some extremely-long highway tunnels through the mountain ranges, and some of these, now the world's longest, are so long that they have hollowed-out caverns in the midst of them for motorists to stop and take rests.
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 M2, the first motorway, 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.
Romania currently has two operational highways, summing up to 279 km; that is the least developed motorway network among all the European Union members. They are now being extended and additionally, another three motorways are planned to be built by 2016.
There are no tolls for using the motorways in Romania, except one bridge over the Danube on the A2. Nevertheless, every car that uses a motorway or a national road in Romania must wear a sticker called a rovinietă on its windscreen, which can be bought at larger petrol stations.
Russia has many highways, but only small number of them are currently motorways. Examples of Russian motorways are Moscow and Saint Petersburg Ring Roads. Highways and motorways are free in Russia and only two motorways, Western High Speed Diameter and Moscow-Saint Petersburg toll motorway, currently under construction, will be first Russian toll motorways. It must be noted that Russians themselves often translate the Russian name for highway (Автомобильные дороги=automobile roads) into motorway in English, which is not a correct English name.
Saudi Arabia has a total highway length of 173,000 km. Highways in Saudi Arabia vary from ten laned roads to small four laned roads. The city highways and other major highways are well maintained such as the roads in Riyadh. The roads are constructed so they resist the summer's extremely high heat and do not reflect the strong sun. The outer city highways such as the one linking from coast to coast are not as great as the inner-city highways but the government is now working on rebuilding those roads.
Some of the important inter-city highways include:
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 (148 km) of expressways in Singapore.
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 the carriageways in opposite directions. As in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and Japan, South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road and nearly 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.
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:
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 started to construct autopistas (toll highways) and autovías (freeways), and in 2007 had 14,689 km of highways, the biggest network in Europe and the third in the world, only after the USA and China.
The first freeway in Sweden was built between the cities of Malmö and Lund in the Skåne County in southern Sweden. The Swedish roads are divided in three classes; Motorväg, which is a 4-8 lane freeway with the speed limit of 110-120 km/h. Riksväg, which is a state highway with 2-4 lanes. The Riksväg has a speed limit of 70-100 km/h. The last road is the Länsväg, which is a "county route" with 2 lanes and 70–90 km/h in speed limit. The authority which is responsible for the roads in Sweden is Vägverket.
The term Autobahn (German) / Autoroute (French) / Autostrada (Italian) is used for normal highways where there is a central physical structure separating two different directional carriageways. This is often translated into English as motorways.
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, usually translated into English as an expressway. Those often have a lower speed limit than motorways.
The construction of Taiwan's national highways began in 1971 and the design is heavily based on the American Interstate Highway System. The Northern section between Keelung City and Zhongli City was completed in 1974. The construction of the first freeway (No. 1) was completed in 1978. The freeway runs from the northern port city cf Keelung to the southern port city of Kaohsiung. There was an 8.6 km branch (No. 1A) connecting the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
Construction on the other freeways began in the late 1980s. The north section of the second north-south freeway (No. 3) between Xizhi City and Hsinchu City was completed in 1997. The No. 1A Branch was extended to link No. 3 Freeway at Yingge, and renamed as No. 2 Freeway. Three other short freeways (No. 4, No. 8, and No. 10) were built to link the two north-south freeways in Taichung County, Tainan County, and Kaohsiung County, respectively. The entire No. 3 Freeway was completed in January, 2004.
To ease the congestion of No. 1 Freeway in the Taipei metropolitan area, a 20 km elevated bridge was built in 1997 on top of the original freeway between Xizhi City and Wugu, to serve as a bypass for traffic not exiting/entering the freeway within the city limits of Taipei.
The construction of a freeway connecting the Taipei metropolitan area and Yilan County began in 1991 and was completed in June 2006. It includes a 12.9 km tunnel (Hsuehshan Tunnel), which is the fifth longest road tunnel in the world. An extension from Yilan County to Hualian County is planned. However, its construction is being delayed due to environmental concerns.
In the United Kingdom, unless a route is classified as a motorway, the term which is used for a vehicular highway may be main road, trunk road, 'A' road/'B' road, "'C' road", "unclassified road", or, where appropriate, dual carriageway. However, in the law of England and Wales the term public highway includes all public rights of way regardless of the kind or amount of traffic they allow, including streets and public footpaths for pedestrians. The term also includes bridleways, which are for pedestrians, equestrians, and cyclists, as well as by-ways open to all traffic (for all of those users, plus vehicular traffic).
In England and Wales, the public is said to have a "right of way" over a highway. This means that, subject to statutory restrictions, the route (or "way") must be kept clear to allow travel by anyone who wishes to it. At common law, it is unlawful to obstruct a highway or to interfere with its lawful use. However, many statutory provisions provide powers to do so (for instance. to carry out roadwork).
Many public highways in the U.K. have a private owner. That is, someone can prove "title" to them, either by being the registered owner or by having conveyances showing exactly how the land has been bought and sold over a long period of time. Such ownership in no way affects the public highway rights, since the relevant "highway authority" (usually a local authority or the Highways Agency in England and Wales, or Amey Highways in Scotland) is deemed to own the surface of the highway, despite someone else's ownership of the land it passes over or under.
However, the understanding in some places is that if the road or highway is ever permanently closed and demolished, then complete control of the strip of land on which it lies reverts to the actual owner of the land. In other places, the word "easement" is used. The governmental authority has an indefinitely-long easement to use the strip of land for a road, but if the road vanishes, so does the easement that goes with it. It is possible that sometime in the far future, roads and highways will become obsolete, with people and cargo getting from here to there by some other means. Thus, some of the statements below are short-sighted and questionable.
Rights-of-way exist over all highways maintained at the public expense (the majority of roads) and also over some other ways which are not so maintained, on the principle of "once a highway, always a highway". In such cases, landowners must allow public use for "passing and repassing".
A right-of-way may be created by custom (by the way being used for a long period of time) or under the relevant Sections of the Highways Act of 1980. A right-of-way may be extinguished or diverted in a number of ways, such as by an Act of Parliament, by a magistrates' stopping-up or diversion order, or by powers given to principal local authorities. For instance, under the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act of 1996, authority was given for the builder of this railway link to stop up certain highways that are mentioned in Schedule 3 of the act.
The opposite of a highway is a private road or pathway over which no rights-of-way exist. Any use of such private ways is subject to the consent of the owner of the land.
Richard Mabey poses the origin of the word "highway" back to the Romans in his book "The Roadside Wildlife Book", 1974: "Daniel Defoe, writing in the 1720s, describes the Fosse Way as being raised eight or nine feet in many places. Between AD 40 and 80, the Romans laid something like 6,500 miles of highway. (Were these raised roads one origin of this word?)".
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:
Note that the phrase "right-of-way" is used differently in the United States than it is in the United Kingdom and certain other places. In the U.S. a highway or road "right-of-way" means the land on which the pavement rests, plus the shoulders beside the pavements, plus any median strip, plus any other adjacent piece of land that is designated for the purposes of the highway or road. In other words, the "right-of-way" is the strip of land for the highway or road, and a sign that say, "No Parking on Right-of-Way" means just that: don't park on the pavement or on the land adjacent to it.
Many paved highways for vehicles are part of the official National Highway System of the U.S.. Paved highways in the "U.S. Highway" system (for example, U.S. Highway 50) can vary from two lanes wide (one lane each direction), shoulderless, roads with no access control, to multi-lane high-speed controlled-access highway, such as the Interstate Highways. These roads are usually distinguished by being important, but not always the primary, routes that connect populated areas. (Sometimes, the primary route is a State Highway.) Since their inception many decades ago, the construction of "U.S. Highways", and their major imporvements, have been paid for 50% with Federal funds, especially from motor fuel taxes, and 50% with State funds from whatever tax resources that the state has. Thus, the the system of "U.S. Highways" has always been an equal partnership between the Federal Government and the State governments. This was a plan that changed dramatically with the advent of the Interstate Highway system beginning in the 1950s, but do not forget that the system of "U.S. Highways" continued to be upgraded under the 50%-50% funding. Highways continue to be widened, old bridges continue to be replaces with newer and better ones, and so forth.
The term "Highways" in the U.S. even includes major paved roads that serve purposes similar to those of the U.S. Highways or Interstate Highways, but which are completely designed, paid for, and maintained by state or local governments. An example of this is Tennessee Highway 840, which is a long, partially-completed "urban bypass" of Nashville, Tenn. that is a multi-lane, controlled-access highway entirely designed and paid for by Tennessee. Much of the traffic on it will eventually come from Interstate 40, completely avoid the big city, and then return to Interstate 40. Incidentally, Tennessee-840 also has connections with Interstate 24 and Interstate 65, where both of the freeway interchanges are already finished, as well as the eastern interchange with Interstate 40.
When the Act of Congress that authorized the Interstate Highway System was passed and then signed by President Eisenhower, it was already clear that the Interstate Highways would be far more expensive, mile-for-mile, than the U.S. Highways had been. Also, the Interstate Highways were to be built largely, for the purposes of constitutionality, for Federal purposes which were, A. To promote and enable the National Defense by being able to move very large numbers of troops, and their equipment and supplies from place to place, rapidly, by truck and bus. Also, long stretches of the expressway would have the capability of functioning as emergency take-off and landing strips for Air Force planes in wartime. B. To promote and enable commerce between the 48 states that existed then, under the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution With these being the stated purposes of the Interstate Highways (and also the source of the name "Interstate Highway", from the Commerce Clause), and because of their great cost, Congress decided to set the standard for Federal funding for the Interstate System at 90%, leaving 10% for the States to pay for.
Another monetary difference came from the fact that the Interstate Highways were to be designed to be high-speed and safe expressways. This meant that they needed to have much wider open strips of land along their sides, because this created safety zones on each side of the highways so that vehicles that were in accidents or simply lost control would have somewhere to go, to slow down gradually, and not crash into trees, boulders, light poles, buildings, parked vehicles, fire hydrants, and other kinds of obstacles that you can think of. Roadway interchanges for Interstate Highways were also to be very large (and over the decades, they became a lot larger than anyone had anticipated in the 1950s). With so much land being taken away for the highways, the only way to justify it and to make it politically palatable was for the Federal and State governments to outright purchase all of the land. There could be no question of just having an easement for the highway and its right-of-way. All of the land within the right-of-way would be permanently owned by the governments, until such time that they decided to get rid of the highway and sell the land.
In some places, "highway" is a synonym for "road" or "street", and in some cases, the word "highway" is simply used in cases of carelessness and laziness on the part of the speaker, who believes that "street", "road", and "highway" are all synonomous and uses them accordingly. On the other hand, in another example, the 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." The California Supreme Court has held that "the definition of 'highway' in the Vehicle Code is used for special purposes of that act," and that canals of the town of Venice, California, are "highways" also entitled to be maintained with state highway funds.
The Federal and State governments are trying to improve their national highway systems by repaving highways, widening highways, replacing bridges, and reconstructing some interchanges. Many cloverleaf interchanges are being converted to parclo interchanges. Busy Diamond interchanges are also being converted to SPUIs (single-point-urban interchange) or to parclos to reduce interchange 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, and by the legendary TV series Route 66. Other famous highways in songs include Highway 61 (Bob Dylan, 1965), Carefree Highway in Arizona (Gordon Lightfoot, 1974), Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California (Jan & Dean, also Beach Boys, 1964), the song Ventura Highway, named for a highway in Southern California ("America", 1972), and Blues Highway in Mississippi (Fred McDowell, 1959).
Zimbabwe uses two types of highway, which are called autofamba and autoruwendo. Zimbabwe has an excellent road network, but it is poorly maintained.
For information on the history and local styles of highways around the world, refer to
Main Road may refer to:
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