Roads in America: length and quality. United States Interstate Highway System

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Roads in America: length and quality. United States Interstate Highway System
Roads in America: length and quality. United States Interstate Highway System

USA is associated by many with endless highways that run through the whole country, with incredible interchanges, numerous bridges and tunnels. When asked about the roads in America, one can hear only positive epithets: endless, wonderful, upscale. And it will be true. And it's no coincidence, because American roads are considered the best in the world in terms of quality, convenience and safety.

Now it seems that there have always been roads in the USA, but in fact their capital construction began relatively recently - in the 50s of the XX century. As the availability of cars increased among the population, the need for a highway system increased. At the same time, the American government approached this issue with all responsibility, providing the necessary research in the field of road construction. Thanks to this approach, US roads are highly valued all over the world, and some countries (for example, China) use the American version of laying highways. About how roads are called in America, how they are numbered and how they differ from roads in other countries,read our article.

A bit of history

At the beginning of the 20th century, a car was considered a luxury for Americans, but after the launch of the automobile assembly line in 1908 by Henry Ford, the situation changed. The growth in the number of cars in the country contributed to the laying of roads, the first of which were nominal and named after famous personalities or events. The construction was sponsored, as a rule, by businessmen who benefited from the road connection. The problem was that there was no master plan for the construction, so the transport arteries were complex and confusing.

Henry Ford automobile assembly line

Since 1925, road construction has become more orderly, federal laws are being drafted to create a road system, but due to economic instability and wars, construction has progressed slowly. Roosevelt was the first president to propose that the necessary steps be taken to create a highway system in the country. In 1941, he created the National Interregional Highway Committee and tasked himself with drawing up a detailed plan for the construction of roads in America. In 1953, Dwight David Eisenhower became President of the United States. He knew from personal experience the advantages of the German autobahns, so he strongly supported the creation of a national highway system.

U.S. Interstate Highway System

The US Highway Network is named after the 34th President, Dwight D. Eisenhower. It was during his administration that the National Interstate Automotive and Defense Act was passed in 1956.highways” and organized the construction of one of the longest road networks in the world. The success of the project was ensured through costly research, which resulted in new construction standards, including the type of surface, the design of road signs, etc.

Much attention was paid to traffic safety, so the general rules were adopted. Here are some of them:

  • to prevent uncontrolled hit on the highway, all entrances and exits must be clearly regulated;
  • to prevent head-on collisions, roads should be separated by a concrete divider or green stripe;
  • to ensure a safe exit from the hills, the maximum level of descent was determined to be 6%, the maximum load is 36 tons;
  • road crossings must have high-speed connections, loops with 90 or 180-degree turns are not allowed;
  • highways should not be interrupted and have an access road running parallel to the main road;
  • left and right shoulders shall have a minimum width of 1m and 3m respectively.
US Interstate Highway System

The law established uniform standards for road construction, routes and sources of funding for all states. The minimum number of lanes in one direction and the width of each lane were determined, requirements for an emergency lane were developed, the numbering system and road signs were unified, and a speed limit was set. This infrastructure project is the largest and most expensive project in the world and at the same time the mostpromptly completed: most of the highways were built in just 35 years!

Now construction is underway in areas where expansion or duplication of highways is required. Nebraska became the first state to complete the project's road construction. In autumn 1974 the track was put into operation. And in 1992, the construction of the originally planned system was completed. However, work is still ongoing in some areas. Today, the US interstate highway system (interstate highways) connects all US states. Highways have at least two lanes in one direction, and lanes in different directions are usually separated by a wide lawn or high concrete fence. The exits and entrances to highways and city streets have appropriate signs, knowing which is quite easy to navigate along the way.

Interstate numbering

Wisconsin was the first state to introduce the numbering of its highways back in 1918. A little later, in 1926, the most important transportation arteries of each state received their own numbers and formed the US highway system. Today, the Interstate numbering system is a number and a letter, or a combination of a number and a letter.

Major interstate highways are marked with the letter I and have a number value less than 100. West-east directions are even-numbered, increasing from south to north, and end in the number 0 if the road passes in this direction through the entire country. The main routes from east to west are the Los Angeles highways,California - Jacksonville, Florida (I-10), San Francisco, California - Teaneck, New Jersey (I-80), Seattle, Washington - Boston, Massachusetts (I-90).

North-south directions have an odd one- or two-digit numbering, increasing from west to east, and designations ending in 5 are the main highways in America in this direction. Popular routes from south to north are San Diego, California - Blaine, Washington (I-5), San Diego, California - Sweet Grass, Montana (I-15), Laredo, Texas - Duluth, Minnesota (I- 35), New Orleans, Louisiana - Chicago, Illinois (I-55), Mobile, Alabama - Gary, Indiana (I-65), Miami, Florida - Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (I-75), Miami, Florida – Holton, Maine (I-95).

Designations above 100 are numbered branches or auxiliary highways. In this case, if the branch does not return to the main highway, then an odd number is added to the digit designating it, if it returns, an even number. In other words, the first number indicates the nature of the road, the last two indicate the main road.

An example of the numbering of the main and auxiliary roads

For example, the red line in the picture above is the main I-5. Ancillary roads are marked with a blue line, and towns with a gray one. If you turn onto the I-705 road, then you will not be able to return to the main highway, because this is a drive into the city. But on the bypass (I-405) or ring road (I-605) you can return to the main highway. Knowing these nuances, you can avoid mistakes in movement.

Each state has its own speed limits. Maximumspeed on highways is 130 km/h, the minimum is 60-80 km/h. You can ride "with the breeze" in Texas: the permissible speed is up to 129 km / h, but in Cumberland, Maryland you cannot accelerate more than 64 km / h.

Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Alaska

The US Interstate Highway System extends into the unconnected US territories of Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Hawaii's freeways are designated by the letter H and unite significant cities and towns, military and naval bases of the island of Oahu, which is the most populated place in the state. Highways in Alaska and Puerto Rico are prefixed with A and PR in their names and are numbered without regard to system numbers and division into even and odd. Building standards don't apply here either.

Classification of American roads

The length of roads in America is 6,662,878 km according to 2016 data. According to this indicator, the United States is the undisputed world leader. India and China, coming in second and third place, are still behind the United States. For comparison, Russia's figure is 1,452,200 km.

There are several types of highways in America:

  • Interstate Highways (indicated by index I) are highways built and financed by the state. Special standards approved for such routes ensure safe high-speed traffic. Repair work and maintenance of interstate highways comes from the state budget, which owns a particular road section. Interstate Highways is part of the US National Highway System. These roadsare of great importance for the economy and security of the country and provide continuous traffic.
  • US Highways (US Highways, denoted by the index US) - routes that serve, as a rule, for trips over medium distances within one state. These roads are maintained and repaired by local and state governments.
  • State Highways are intra-state highways built to different standards depending on traffic congestion: in states with high congestion, the routes correspond to interstate highways, in states where roads are less used, the quality of roads is much lower.
  • Local Roads are all other roads, which can be both multi-lane and unpaved, laid inland. Road maintenance and repair is carried out by local authorities.
Business Highway in the Northeast

The first two types of roads are of great importance for the USA - Interstate Highways and US Highways. They are built according to a special technology that has been proven over the years, and the concrete pavement ensures the strength and durability of the roads: a major overhaul of the roadway is not required for 30-40 years! Such routes are designed for high capacity and can withstand relatively high loads. Layered laying allows the roads not to sag over time. Their improvement is largely ensured by a competent tax policy, which includes toll highways, taxes on cars, special road fees (for example, a small percentagefrom sales to the road construction fund, gas stations pay), private investment, etc.

Thus, highways are also an economically profitable enterprise. Road production is not a cheap undertaking, but all investments pay off. For example, when laying a highway, the transport infrastructure (gas stations, cafes, motels, etc.) is also developing, which creates new jobs that reduce unemployment in the country. Road safety helps prevent accidents and thus save on insurance and he alth care.

Business Highways

On American roads you can find green boards with the inscription Business. Business highways are a category of special roads used when a regular road bypasses a city. Spurs and ring business roads run through the central business districts.

"Mother" of American roads (Route 66)

Change in the status of some roads leads to the reduction or elimination of part of the American highways. Among these routes is the famous Route 66. Once it connected Chicago with Los Angeles and acquired its high status during the Great Depression. In 1985, Route 66 was decommissioned due to the duplication of most of the route by modern interstate highways, but thanks to a caring public, the route has retained historical significance. This is no coincidence, because the legendary highway is the first full-fledged highway.

Historic Highway 66

Federal Route 66 became popular thanks to literature, cinema andsongs. A trip along Route 66 &ndash is like traveling back in time to the middle of the 20th century. True, those who wish to ride along the old road need to follow the signs "Historic Highway 66", and even better - study the route in detail, for example, on the website The description of the road given in it will help you not to lose your way, crossing all 8 states, and also not to miss the main attractions of Route 66, including all kinds of museums, antique shops, old gas stations and, of course, picturesque scenery.

Toll Road

Toll roads in America have the word toll in their names. More than half of the states have toll roads, with fewer in the west and south of the country. Usually, toll roads are built around or within large cities, and travel through long tunnels and bridges is also paid. There are several ways to pay for the road:

  • cash payment on the spot (toll booth, etc.), while you need to follow the signs on the road, which will tell you what payment is accepted on certain lines;
  • payment on the official website of toll roads ( 5 days before using the toll road or within 5 days after using it;
  • automatic payment through a special device (transponder) to which the account is linked (lines marked EZPass, iPass, SunPass, K-Tag, PikePass, etc.).
Road toll signs

The last method is, of course, the most convenient, but its disadvantage is that, for example,the EZ Pass transponder works all along the American East Coast, but it will not work in Oklahoma or Florida, and you will have to look for an alternative.

Some rules of the road

America has developed a detailed system of pen alties for traffic violations. There is a system of points that, when accumulated, in addition to monetary fines, can lead to a temporary ban on driving, re-passing standards, etc. Americans are considered responsible drivers with a high culture of behavior on the roads and try not to violate the rules. Travelers should also be aware of the restrictions to avoid paying large fines and endangering themselves and others.

For example, on I and US roads, you can't stop on the side of the road without a good reason. In the most picturesque places there are observation platforms, where you can make a stop. In case of an emergency, a stop is made on the right side of the road. When there is a broken car on the right side of the road, drivers need to move to the lane to the left. And if any company car is standing on the side of the road, which is impossible to miss because of the bright lights, then you need to slow down to 80 km / h if you can’t change lanes to the left. The extreme left lanes (carpool) on some roads are high-speed. Often they help to avoid traffic jams, but you just need to remember that you can drive along this line when there are 2 or more passengers in the car (3 or more for some states). If you ride the carpool alone, you can get a fine. There are signs on the road, soneed to be vigilant.

Carpool pointers

In general, all roads in America are riddled with signs. They were developed after numerous studies on the subject of the most effective human perception of colors and fonts. Therefore, all designations are quite readable, the main thing is to remember what this or that name means. For convenience, information boards are installed on the roads, reporting on the situation on the road (accident, traffic obstruction). There are also boards with information about which establishments are located at the exit from the motorway. In terms of establishments in America, everything is very thought out. You can always find a place for a snack and rest, a toilet or an overnight stay. There are special round-the-clock service zones that can be accessed by moving in both directions. In these areas, free parking, shops, toilets. Cameras and traffic control rooms allow services to quickly respond to all traffic incidents and immediately send help.

Another interesting feature of roads in America is that during a disaster evacuation, traffic direction changes on one side of the highway. All lanes begin to move in one direction - from the disaster site to the safe zone. Contraflow lane reversal was introduced by the US government in response to a failed 1998 hurricane evacuation. More than 600 people died then. All signs in the US are controllable, so in case of adverse weather (ice, fog, etc.), the speed limit may be adjusted towardsdecrease.


High-speed roads in America pass through cities and, intersecting with each other, form a convenient transport network, through which you can quickly get to the right place in the city or go outside it. Most Americans prefer highways to rail transport. The most common division of roads: local and federal. The maintenance and repair of the former is carried out by local authorities, the latter is the responsibility of the federal government. Interstate highways are maintained in perfect condition and meet accepted building standards. American roads are considered the most convenient and safe. Some tourists come to the States just to ride the quality trails that have become popular all over the world.

US road sign design

Thanks to a well-thought-out toll collection system, the road construction fund is replenished annually. At the same time, the money does not evaporate in an unknown direction, but goes to the maintenance and repair of roads. An important factor is the technology adopted in the United States for the construction of the main city arteries, thanks to which the quality of roads in America corresponds to the highest level. Concrete roads last much longer, and major repairs are not required for a quarter of a century. Safety is another strong point of American roads. Despite the expensive means by which safety is ensured, all investments pay off, because the prevention of emergency situations helps to save on he alth care and insurance and save the life and he alth of yourcitizens.

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