A highway is any public or private road or other public way on land.
It is used for major roads, but also includes other public roads and
public tracks: It is not an equivalent term to controlled-access
highway, or a translation for autobahn, autoroute, etc.
In North American and Australian English, major roads such as
controlled-access highways or arterial roads are often state highways
(Canada: provincial highways). Other roads may be designated "county
highways" in the US and Ontario. These classifications refer to the
level of government (state, provincial, county) that maintains the
In British English, "highway" is primarily a legal term. Everyday use
normally implies roads, while the legal use covers any route or path
with a public right of access, including footpaths etc.
The term has led to several related derived terms, including highway
system, highway code, highway patrol and highwayman.
The term highway exists in distinction to "waterway".
England and Wales
2.3 United States
4 Social effects
5 Economic effects
6 Environmental effects
Road traffic safety
9 Bus lane
9.1 South Korea
9.2 Hong Kong
11 See also
11.2 By country
13 External links
Major highways are often named and numbered by the governments that
typically develop and maintain them. Australia's
Highway 1 is the
longest national highway in the world at over 14,500 km or
9,000 mi and runs almost the entire way around the continent.
China has the world's largest network of highways followed closely by
United States of America. Some highways, like the Pan-American
Highway or the European routes, span multiple countries. Some major
highway routes include ferry services, such as U.S. Route 10, which
crosses Lake Michigan.
Traditionally highways were used by people on foot or on horses. Later
they also accommodated carriages, bicycles and eventually motor cars,
facilitated by advancements in road construction. In the 1920s and
1930s, many nations began investing heavily in progressively more
modern highway systems to spur commerce and bolster national defense.
Major modern highways that connect cities in populous developed and
developing countries usually incorporate features intended to enhance
the road's capacity, efficiency, and safety to various degrees. Such
features include a reduction in the number of locations for user
access, the use of dual carriageways with two or more lanes on each
carriageway, and grade-separated junctions with other roads and modes
of transport. These features are typically present on highways built
as motorways (freeways).
England and Wales
The general legal definition deals with right of use not the form of
construction; this is distinct from e.g. the popular use of the word
in the US. A highway is defined in English common law by a number of
similarly-worded definitions such as "a way over which all members of
the public have the right to pass and repass without hindrance"
usually accompanied by "at all times"; ownership of the ground is for
most purposes irrelevant thus the term encompasses all such ways from
the widest trunk roads in public ownership to the narrowest footpath
providing unlimited pedestrian access over private land.
A highway might be open to all forms of lawful land traffic (i.e.
vehicular, horse, pedestrian) or limited to specific types of traffic
or combinations of types of traffic; usually a highway available to
vehicles is available to foot or horse traffic, a highway available to
horse traffic is available to pedestrians but exceptions can apply
usually in the form of a highway only being available to vehicles or
subdivided into dedicated parallel sections for different users.
A highway can share ground with a private right of way for which full
use is not available to the general public as often will be the case
with farm roads which the owner may use for any purpose but for which
the general public only has a right of use on foot or horseback. The
status of highway on most older roads has been gained by established
public use while newer roads are typically dedicated as highways from
the time they are adopted (taken into the care and control of a
council or other public authority). In
England and Wales, a public
highway is also known as "The Queen's Highway".
The core definition of a highway is modified in various legislation
for a number of purposes but only for the specific matters dealt with
in each such piece of legislation. This is typically in the case of
bridges, tunnels and other structures whose ownership, mode of use or
availability would otherwise exclude them from the general definition
of a highway, examples in recent years are commonly toll bridges and
tunnels which have the definition of highway imposed upon them (in a
legal order applying only to the individual structure) to allow
application of most traffic laws to those using them but without
causing all of the general obligations or rights of use otherwise
applicable to a highway.
Scots law is similar to English law with regard to highways but with
differing terminology and legislation. What is defined in
England as a
highway will often in Scotland be what is defined by s.151 Roads
(Scotland) Act 1984 (but only "in this act" although other legislation
could imitate) simply as a road, that is :-
"any way (other than a waterway) over which there is a public right of
passage (by whatever means [and whether subject to a toll or not]) and
includes the road’s verge, and any bridge (whether permanent or
temporary) over which, or tunnel through which, the road passes; and
any reference to a road includes a part thereof; "
The word highway is itself no longer a statutory expression in Scots
law but remains in common law.
In American law, the word "highway" is sometimes used to denote any
public way used for travel, whether a "road, street, and parkway";
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. Highways
generally have a route number designated by the state and federal
departments of transportation.[clarification needed]
Vehicle Code, Sections 360, 590, define a "highway" as only
a way open for use of motor vehicles, but 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 Los Angeles
neighborhood of Venice, California, are "highways" that are entitled
to be maintained with state highway funds.
Smaller roads may be termed byways.
Autobahn in the 1930s.
Road and History of road transport
Modern highway systems developed in the 20th century as the automobile
gained popularity. The world's first limited access road was
constructed on Long Island New York in the
United States known as the
Long Island Motor Parkway
Long Island Motor Parkway or the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway. It was
completed in 1911. Construction of the Bonn–Cologne autobahn
began in 1929 and it was opened in 1932 by the mayor of Cologne,
In the USA, the
Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921 (Phipps Act) enacted a
fund to create an extensive highway system. In 1922, the first
blueprint for a national highway system (the Pershing Map) was
Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956
Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 allocated $25 billion
for the construction of the 41,000-mile-long (66,000 km)
Interstate Highway System
Interstate Highway System over a 20-year period.
In Great Britain, the
Special Roads Act 1949 provided the legislative
basis for roads for restricted classes of vehicles and non-standard or
no speed limits applied (later mostly termed motorways but now with
speed limits not exceeding 70 mph); in terms of general road
law this legislation overturned the usual principle that a road
available to vehicular traffic was also available to horse or
pedestrian traffic as is usually the only practical change when
non-motorways are reclassified as special roads. The first section of
motorway in the UK opened in 1958 (part of the M6 motorway) and then
in 1959 the first section of the M1 motorway.
Commonwealth Avenue, a major intercity highway in northeastern Manila
metropolitan area, the Philippines.
Reducing travel times relative to city or town streets, modern
highways with limited access and grade separation create increased
opportunities for people to travel for business, trade or pleasure and
also provide trade routes for goods. Modern highways reduce commute
and other travel time but additional road capacity can also release
latent traffic demand. If not accurately predicted at the planning
stage, this extra traffic may lead to the new road becoming congested
sooner than would otherwise be anticipated by considering increases in
vehicle ownership. More roads allow drivers to use their cars when
otherwise alternatives may have been sought, or the journey may not
have been made, which can mean that a new road brings only short-term
mitigation of traffic congestion.
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.
Main article: Transport economics
In transport, demand can be measured in numbers of journeys made or in
total distance travelled across all journeys (e.g.
passenger-kilometres for public transport or vehicle-kilometres of
travel (VKT) for private transport). Supply is considered to be a
measure of capacity. The price of the good (travel) is measured using
the generalised cost of travel, which includes both money and time
The effect of increases in supply (capacity) are of particular
interest in transport economics (see induced demand), as the potential
environmental consequences are significant (see externalities below).
In addition to providing benefits to their users, transport networks
impose both positive and negative externalities on non-users. The
consideration of these externalities—particularly the negative
ones—is a part of transport economics.
Positive externalities of
transport networks may include the ability to provide emergency
services, increases in land value and agglomeration benefits. Negative
externalities are wide-ranging and may include local air pollution,
noise pollution, light pollution, safety hazards, community severance
and congestion. The contribution of transport systems to potentially
hazardous climate change is a significant negative externality which
is difficult to evaluate quantitatively, making it difficult (but not
impossible) to include in transport economics-based research and
analysis. Congestion is considered a negative externality by
A 2016 study finds that for the
United States "a 10% increase in a
region's stock of highways causes a 1.7% increase in regional
patenting over a five-year period."
Noise, light and air pollution are negative environmental effects
highways can have on their surroundings.
Main article: Environmental impacts of roads
Highways are extended linear sources of pollution.
Roadway noise increases with operating speed so major highways
generate more noise than arterial streets. 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 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.
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 address habitat fragmentation, wildlife crossings have become
increasingly popular in many countries.
Wildlife crossings allow
animals to safely cross human-made barriers like highways.
Road traffic safety
Road traffic safety
Road traffic safety describes the safety performance of roads and
streets, and methods used to reduce the harm (deaths, injuries, and
property damage) on the highway system from traffic collisions. It
includes the design, construction and regulation of the roads, the
vehicles used on them and the training of drivers and other
A report published by the
World Health Organization
World Health Organization in 2004 estimated
that some 1.2m people were killed and 50m injured on the roads around
the world each year and was the leading cause of death among
children 10–19 years of age.
The report also noted that the problem was most severe in developing
countries and that simple prevention measures could halve the number
of deaths. For reasons of clear data collection, only harm
involving a road vehicle is included. A person tripping with fatal
consequences or dying for some unrelated reason on a public road is
not included in the relevant statistics.
International sign used widely in Europe denoting the start of special
restrictions for a section of highway classed as a motorway.
Cross Bronx Expressway
Cross Bronx Expressway in New York,
United States uses asphalt and
concrete pavement, both of which are popular road surfaces on
United States has the world's largest network of highways,
including both the
Interstate Highway System
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 the longest Expressway system in the
world, and it is quickly expanding, stretching some 85,000 km at
the end of 2011. In 2008 alone, 6,433 km expressways were
added to the network.
Longest international highway
The Pan-American Highway, which connects many countries in the
Americas, is nearly 25,000 kilometres (15,500 mi) long as of
2005[update]. The
Pan-American Highway is
discontinuous because there is a significant gap in it in southeastern
Panama, where the rainfall is immense and the terrain is entirely
unsuitable for highway construction.
Longest national highway (point to point)
Trans-Canada Highway has two routes, with the northern Route spanning
7,821 km (4,860 mi) long as of 2006[update] alone, and over
10,700 km long including the southern portion. The T.C.H. runs
east-west across southern Canada, the populated portion of the
country, and it connects many of the major urban centres along its
route crossing almost all of the provinces, and reaching almost all of
the capital cities. The T.C.H. begins on the east coast in
Newfoundland, traverses that island, and crosses to the mainland by
ferry. It reaches most of the
Maritime Provinces of eastern Canada,
and a side route using ferries traverses the province of Prince Edward
Island. After crossing the two most populous provinces of
Ontario, the T.C.H. continues westward across Manitoba, Saskatchewan,
Alberta, and British Columbia. After reaching Vancouver, B.C., on the
Pacific Coast, there is a ferry route west to
Vancouver Island and the
provincial capital city of Victoria, B.C.
Longest national highway (circuit)
Highway 1 at over 14,500 km (9,000 mi).[citation
needed] It runs almost the entire way around the continent's
coastline. With the exception of the Federal Capital of Canberra,
which is far inland,
Highway 1 links all of Australia's capital
cities, although Brisbane and Darwin are not directly connected, but
rather are bypassed short distances away. Also, there is a ferry
connection to the island state of Tasmania, and then a stretch of
Highway 1 that links the major towns and cities of Tasmania, including
Launceston and Hobart (this state’s capital city).
Largest national highway system
United States of America has approximately 6.43 million
kilometres (4,000,000 mi) of highway within its borders as of
Highway 401 in Ontario, Canada, has volumes surpassing an average of
500,000 vehicles per day in some sections of
Toronto as of
Widest highway (maximum number of lanes)
Freeway (part of Interstate 10) in Houston, Texas, has a
total of 26 lanes in some sections as of 2007[update].[citation
needed] However, they are divided up into general use/ frontage
HOV lanes, restricting the traverse traffic flow.
Widest highway (maximum number of through lanes)
Interstate 5 along a two-mile-long (3.2 km) section between
Interstate 805 and
California State Route 56
California State Route 56 in San Diego, California,
which was completed in April 2007, is 22 lanes wide.
Highest international highway
The Karakoram Highway, between
Pakistan and China, is at an altitude
of 4,693 metres (15,397 ft).
This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this
section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material
may be challenged and removed. (December 2012) (Learn how and when to
remove this template message)
Highway bus lane on
Gyeongbu Expressway in South Korea.
Some countries incorporate bus lanes onto highways.
Bus lanes (km)
M2 Hills Motorway
30 lanes Road
Don Valley Parkway
shoulder converted as bypass lane from Lawrence Avenue East to York
Highway 417 (Ottawa)
Mavis Road–Winston Churchill
Tuen Mun Road
Hannam IC (Seoul) ~ Sintanjin IC (Daejeon)
A1 motorway (Netherlands)
End of A6-Vechtbrug (Muiden)
In South Korea, in February 1995—
Bus lane (essentially an HOV-9)
established between the northern terminus and Sintanjin for important
holidays and on 1 July 2008—
Bus lane enforcement between
Osan (Sintanjin on weekends) becomes daily between 6 AM and 10 PM. On
1 October this is adjusted to 7 AM to 9 PM weekdays, 9 AM to 9 PM
In Hong Kong, some highways are set up with bus lanes to solve the
Tuen Mun Road
So Kwun Wat
So Kwun Wat to Sham Tseng
Lion Rock Tunnel
The entry of the tunnel
Traffic congestion was a principal problem in major roads and highways
in the Philippines, especially in
Metro Manila and other major cities.
The government decided to set up some bus lanes in
Metro Manila like
in the Epifanio delos Santos Avenue.
Gravelly Hill Interchange
Gravelly Hill Interchange in Birmingham, England
Motorway near Athens,
Greece with rest area above
Highway A1 near Bologna, Italy
A Polish expressway in Bielsko-Biała
E4 motorway with rest area outside Nyköping, Sweden
Highway 401 with collector and express lanes in Mississauga, Ontario,
Highway 404 (southbound) with
HOV lanes in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Pan-American Highway where it serves as the main street in
A typical expressway in China
North Lantau Highway
North Lantau Highway in Hong Kong
A typical Indian highway
32-lane toll plaza at an Indian expressway
Mumbai Pune Expressway as seen from Khandala
A highway interchange in Tehran, Iran
Metropolitan Expressway in Tokyo, Japan
A highway in Kuwait City
Karakoram Highway, Pakistan
North Luzon Expressway, the Philippines
Namhae Expressway in Jinju, South Korea
Ja-Ela Interchange in the Airport Expressway(E03) in Ja-Ela, Sri Lanka
3/4 highway interchange in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
National Route 1A near Từ Sơn, Vietnam
Divided highway (dual carriageway)
Highway systems by country
List of roads and highways
Roadway air dispersion modeling
Undivided highway (single carriageway)
Algeria East–West Highway
Autobahns of Austria
Autocesta (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Avtomagistrala (Bulgaria, Ukraine)
Freeways in Canada
Dálnice (Czech Republic)
Autostrada (Egypt, Poland, Romania)
Autobahns of Germany
Highways and Expressways (India)
List of highways in Israel
Avtopat (Rep. Macedonia)
Motorways and National
Highways of Pakistan
Autoestrada  (Portugal)
Autobahns of Switzerland
Freeways in Taiwan
Highways in the United Kingdom
Interstate Highway, U.S. Highway, state highway (United States)
^ Diplock LJ, Suffolk County Council v. Mason  AC 705
^ "Queen's highway". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press.
^ Faulds, Ann; Craggs, Trudi & Saunders, John (31 January 2008).
Chapter 4: The Definition of a Road?. Scottish
Roads Law (2nd
ed.). Practical Law Company. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
^ "23 U.S. Code § 101".
^ "City of Long Beach v. Payne". Justia Law. Retrieved
^ "highways and byways". The free dictionary. Retrieved 21 April
Autobahn Timeline". About.com. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
^ "German Myth 8 Hitler and the Autobahn". About.com.
^ "History of the Interstate
Highway System". Federal Highway
Administration. Retrieved 10 April 2010.
Roads Act 1949" (PDF). Office of Public Sector
^ "M1 London: Yorkshire Motorway, M10 and M45".
Archived from the original on 16 April 2010. Retrieved 10 April
^ Small, Kenneth A. & Gomez-Ibañez, José A. (1998).
for Congestion Management: The Transition from Theory to Policy. The
University of California Transportation Center, University of
California at Berkeley. p. 213.
Roads and Innovation". doi:10.1162/rest_a_00619#.v1we4ualsfq.
^ Shadely, John (1973). Acoustical analysis of the New Jersey Turnpike
widening project between Raritan and East Brunswick. Bolt Beranek and
^ Hogan, Michael (17–18 April 1973).
Highway Noise. 3rd
Pollution Symposium, sponsored by AIAA, ACS, ASME, SAE.
Menlo Park, CA: SRI International.
^ Zimmerman, Jess. "These beautiful bridges are just for
^ "World report on road traffic injury prevention". World Health
Organisation. Retrieved 14 April 2010.
^ "UN raises child accidents alarm". BBC News. 10 December 2008.
^ "National Motor
Vehicle Crash Causation Survey" (PDF). U.S.
Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
^ Graham-Harrison, Emma (16 November 2007). "
China says needs extra
million km of roads by 2020". Reuters.
^ "15-3 Length of Transport Routes at Year-end by Region". China
National Bureau of Statististcs. 2007. Retrieved 12 January
China Has 3.48 Mln Km of
Highways in Operation". Chinagate.cn. 6
March 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
^ "National highway target set for year". Chinadaily.com.cn. 7 January
2008. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
Road Construction Report, 2007–2008". Okokok.com.cn. 22
December 2008. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
^ Staff (10 February 2011). "
China Expressway System to Exceed US
Interstates". New Geography. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
今年新增1.1万 – 沈阳广播电视台官方网站 –
沈阳电视台 – 资讯潮流 趣味生活
尽在沈视网！". Csytv.com. Archived from the original on 2
February 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
^ "More rural roads planned this year". Chinadaily.com.cn. 16 January
2009. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
^ CBC Archives (6 August 2002). "Trans-
Canada Highway: Bridging the
Distance". CBC News. Retrieved 20 December 2006.
^ Central Intelligence Agency. "Transportation: Roadways". CIA World
^ Ministry of Transportation (Ontario) (6 August 2002). "Ontario
government investing $401 million to upgrade
Highway 401". Archived
from the original on 2007-09-14. Retrieved 20 December 2006.
^ Gray, Brian (10 April 2004). "GTA Economy Dinged by Every Crash on
the 401: North America's Busiest Freeway".
Toronto Sun. Retrieved 18
March 2007 – via Urban Planet. The 'phenomenal' number of vehicles
on Hwy. 401 as it cuts through
Toronto makes it the busiest freeway in
^ "List of World record highways". Inautonews.com. Retrieved 21 March
^ Schmidt, Steve (28 March 2007). "Four new southbound lanes at
I-5/805 merge set to open". San Diego Union-Tribune. Archived from the
original on 18 July 2011.
^ Notable for the introduction of the world's first electronic toll
collection system, the Via Verde.
Look up highway in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Highway
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Highways.
Full list of Euroroutes with distances
The Greenroads Rating System
Legal opinion, Kansas, U.S.A.
Proposed Trans-Global Highway
Euroroutes with distances
Highway Program (June 19, 2011)
Highway 401 through Greater Toronto
Streets and roadways
Types of road
Freeway / Motorway
Dual carriageway / Divided highway / Expressway
Highway systems by country
Hierarchy of roads
Single-point urban (SPUI)
Diamond grinding of pavement
Full depth recycling
Dead Man's Curve
Space and time allocation
Barrier transfer machine
Contraflow lane reversal
High-occupancy toll lane
High-occupancy vehicle lane
Median / Central reservation
Runaway truck ramp
Sidewalk / Pavement
Street running railway
Traffic signal preemption
Wide outside lane
Cat's eye (road)
Concrete step barrier
Raised pavement marker
Road surface marking
Overpass / Flyover
Underpass / Tunnel
Glossary of road transport terms