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An expressway is a divided highway for high-speed traffic with at least partial control of access. The degree of access allowed varies between countries and even between regions within the same country. In some jurisdictions, expressways are divided arterial roads with limits on the frequency of driveways and intersecting cross-streets. In other jurisdictions, access to expressways is limited only to grade-separated interchanges, making them the full equivalent of freeways.

The term expressway is currently used in Australia, Canadamarker, Chinamarker, Croatiamarker, Indiamarker, Iranmarker, Japanmarker, Kuwaitmarker, Malaysiamarker, New Zealandmarker, Nigeriamarker, Pakistanmarker, Philippinesmarker, Polandmarker, Qatarmarker, Singaporemarker, South Koreamarker, Taiwanmarker, Thailandmarker, and the United Statesmarker (where the term originated).

United States

In the United States, an expressway is defined by the federal government’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices as a divided highway with partial control of access. In contrast, a freeway is defined as a divided highway with full control of access. The difference between partial and full access control is that expressways may have a limited number of driveways and at-grade intersections (thus making them a form of high-speed arterial road), while access to freeways is allowed only at grade-separated interchanges. Expressways under this definition do not conform to interstate highway standards (which ban all driveways and at-grade intersections) and are therefore usually numbered as state highways or U.S. highways.

This distinction was first developed in 1949 by the Special Committee on Nomenclature of what is now the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). In turn, the definitions were incorporated into AASHTO's official standards book, the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which would become the national standards book of the U.S. Department of Transportation under a 1966 federal statute. The same distinction has also been codified into the statutory law of seven states: Californiamarker, Mississippimarker, Missourimarker, Nebraskamarker, North Dakotamarker, Ohiomarker, and Wisconsinmarker. However, each state codified the federal distinction slightly differently. California expressways do not necessarily have to be divided, though they must have at least partial access control. For both terms to apply, in Wisconsin, a divided highway must be at least four lanes wide; in Missouri, both terms apply only to divided highways at least 10 miles long that are not part of the Interstate Highway System. In North Dakota and Mississippi, an expressway may have "full or partial" access control and "generally" has grade separations at intersections; a freeway is then defined as an expressway with full access control. Ohio's statute is similar, but instead of the vague word "generally," it imposes a requirement that 50% of an expressway's intersections must be grade-separated for the term to apply.

However, many states around the Great Lakesmarker region and along the Eastern Seaboard have refused to conform their terminology to the federal definition. The following states officially prefer the term expressway instead of freeway to describe what are technically freeways in federal parlance: Connecticutmarker, Floridamarker, Illinoismarker, Marylandmarker, and West Virginiamarker. In those states, it is common to find Interstate highways which bear the name “expressway.” Minnesotamarker officially uses "freeway" and "expressway" interchangeably (with both defined as what federal officials call freeways).

Most expressways under the federal definition have speed limits of 45-55 mph (70–90 km/h) in urban areas and 55-70 mph (90-110 km/h) in rural areas. Urban expressways are usually free of private driveways, but occasional exceptions include direct driveways to gas stations and shopping centers at major intersections (which would never be allowed on a true freeway).

The vast majority of expressways are built by state governments, or by private companies which then operate them as toll roads pursuant to a license from the state government.

A famous example of a local government getting into the expressway business is Santa Clara Countymarker in Californiamarker, which deliberately built its own expressway system in the 1960s to supplement the freeway system then planned by Caltrans. Although the county planned to upgrade the expressways into full-fledged freeways, such a project became politically infeasible after the rise of the tax revolt movement in the mid-1970s.


The Expressway Network of the People's Republic of Chinamarker is one of the longest in the world. This network is also known as National Trunk Highway System (NTHS). The total length of China's expressways was by the end of 2008, the world's second longest only after the United States and roughly equal to Canada, Germany, and France combined. In 2008, of expressways were added to this network.

Expressways in China are a fairly recent addition to a complicated network of roads. China did not have an inch of expressways before 1988. Until 1993, very few expressways existed. One of the earliest expressways nationwide was the Jingshi Expressway between Beijing and Shijiazhuangmarker in Hebeimarker province. This expressway now forms part of the Jingzhu Expressway, currently one of the longest expressways nationwide at over .


In some parts of Canada, expressway is synonymous with freeway and is used to mean limited-access divided-highways with no at-grade intersections, with both terms used interchangeably. An example of this is the Gardiner Expressway through downtown Toronto. Where the expressway turns into a 6-lane arterial road (Lake Shore Boulevard) east of the Don River, there is a sign warning of the end of the expressway. The Macdonald-Cartier Freeway would be the closest example of a route that uses the term freeway, however, that name is being phased out by the Ministry of Transportation.

The E.C. Row Expressway in Windsor, Ontariomarker is a controlled-access divided highway with grade-separated interchanges. It continues until Ojibway Parkway at its western terminus and Banwell Road at its eastern terminus, where there are traffic intersections at both.

The Veterans Memorial Parkway in London, Ontariomarker, has intersections instead of interchanges, and thus is not considered a freeway. It was designed to be a limited access highway for the city, but a lack of funding forced it to be built with at-grade intersections. Other examples include the Hanlon Parkway in Guelphmarker and Regional Road 420 in Niagara Fallsmarker. The Don Valley Parkway in Torontomarker is technically an expressway.

In other locations, such as Albertamarker and most of Western Canada, an expressway is a high-speed arterial road along the lines of the California definition, while a freeway has no at-grade intersections.

In Quebec, the term freeway is never used, with the terms expressway (in English) and autoroute (in English and French) being preferred. English terms are rare, and only found on bilingual signage of expressways (abbreviated "expy") found in Montrealmarker around bridges and on the Bonaventure Expressway; these signs are controlled by the federal government.


A road sign used in several European countries, showing the front of a car, indicates that a road allows only motorized vehicles able to achieve a high speed. Austrian State Route Law


An expressway in Croatiamarker ( , literally express way) is a road similar to a freeway, although it lacks the hard shoulder. Expressways are usually marked with letters B or D. They have much lower speed limits than motorways, usually . All expressways must have at least two lanes in each direction and all interchanges and exits must be grade separated.Croatian: Zakon o sigurnosti u prometu, čl. 2., t. 4. The longest such road in Croatia is B9, connecting Umagmarker and Pulamarker. All expressways are toll-free except for B8 and B9, parts of the Istrian Y network.

Some expressways are tailored for local traffic, such as the B28 (Vrbovec Expressway), and some are built as bypasses or beltways, such as the D31 (East Velika Gorica Bypass).

United Kingdom

Expressway is used in the United Kingdom to describe the road network in Runcornmarker. The network is a controlled-access dual carriageway, similar in construction to a motorway, but designed to carry traffic around the town quickly and efficiently. Runcorn's design of the roads is similar to a freeway. Its design and construction were the result of experimental transportation ideas being tested during the New Town movement in the 1960s and 1970s. There are also some roads referred to as "expressway," such as A38, A38 or A814.


Expressway (singular - droga ekspresowa, plural - drogi ekspresowe) in Poland refers to a network of roads fulfulling the role of bringing traffic to highways, and serving major international and inter-regional purposes. All expressways start with the letter S, followed by a number. They can be dual or single carriageways.


The term expressway is used primarily in the Australian state of South Australiamarker, but also in New South Walesmarker and Queenslandmarker.

In South Australia, expressway is synonymous with freeway, and is used to mean limited-access divided-highways with no at-grade intersections (although at-grade intersections can be found at some locations). Most expressways have been constructed in the South Australia capital of Adelaidemarker since the mid-1990s.

The only expressway in New South Wales is the Cahill Expressway. It was completed in 1962, and today connects the Sydney Harbour Bridgemarker with the Eastern Distributor.

Queensland contains the Riverside Expressway. It was completed in 1975, being in length. It connects Pacific Motorway with Brisbanemarker's city centre and northern suburbs.


Iran has approximately 1,429 km of expressways. The term expressway is usually used in large urban areas such as Isfahanmarker or Tehranmarker and between other important cities (Usually two province capitals) in rural and desert areas. The speed limit in Urban areas is between 50 and 70 km/h and in rural and desert areas between 90 and 110 km/h.

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