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Author Topic: Differences between state and US highways  (Read 8835 times)

huskeroadgeek

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Differences between state and US highways
« on: June 24, 2010, 05:25:55 PM »

I have often noticed that it seems like the general public doesn't really understand the difference between state and US highways. I notice this especially in the local media, where US highways are sometimes referred to as being state highways and occasionally(though less often) vice versa. This has been especially noticeable recently as in Nebraska we have had some road closures due to flooding. Just in the last few days I have seen US 159, US 20 and US 275 incorrectly referred to in the local media as "Nebraska 159", "Nebraska 20" and "Nebraska 275". Yet in the same listings, they also correctly refer to "US 81". Also, it seems to be very common here and elsewhere for people to refer to most state or US highways by the generic term "Highway XX"(or "Route XX" in some other places) without making the distinction between whether it is a state or US highway. The general public does seem to understand the difference between Interstates and other routes as they are almost always identified as "Interstate XX" or "I-XX".

I guess maybe this makes some sense as Interstates are noticeably different(other than the shield, of course) in most cases from state or US routes because they are always(with a few small exceptions) completely access-controlled freeways, while most state or US routes are 2-lane roads or 4-lane roads with no or limited controlled-access. But in general, there is not a large difference overall between state and US routes in terms of quality and 2 lane or 4 lane status. Usually US routes are more traveled and thus will be more likely to be better maintained or have 4 lanes and some controlled access, but there are plenty of exceptions to this.

As a roadgeek, I am always keenly aware of whether a highway is a state or US highway and I have always thought of US highways as being a "higher level" of highway than state highways. People in general may know the difference between the two because of the different shields, but I wonder whether most people think of them as having any difference beyond that. So in general, do other people on here notice this and how important do you think the distinction of a highway being a US highway instad of a state highway really is?
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Truvelo

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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #1 on: June 24, 2010, 05:43:28 PM »

As a foreigner I first thought US highways were maintained by central government and state highways by the individual state. Now though I believe they are all maintained by the state they're in and it's just used to denote a level of hierarchy. Road standard doesn't seem to come into it. Both US and state highways can be anything from 2-lane back streets to fully blown freeways.

I think I'm right in saying that there can't be a state and US highway with the same number in any state unless both follow the same route. Therefore could US highways be effectively eliminated leaving just Interstates and state highways? I know the purists won't accept it as the US highway shield is a part of American culture but from my experiences of driving in the US there's hardly any difference in quality between US and state highways.
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agentsteel53

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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2010, 05:47:49 PM »

there are some states that have US and state routes with the same number.  (hell, in GA, US-27 intersects state route 27 at a 90-degree angle!)

the point of the US system is that they are continuous across the whole country - you can expect to get on US-30 in New Jersey and continue all the way to Oregon without having to change numbers.
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Truvelo

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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #3 on: June 24, 2010, 05:51:49 PM »

...the point of the US system is that they are continuous across the whole country - you can expect to get on US-30 in New Jersey and continue all the way to Oregon without having to change numbers.

That might have been well and true 50 years ago but Interstates have made that redundant.
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TheStranger

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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2010, 05:58:37 PM »

...the point of the US system is that they are continuous across the whole country - you can expect to get on US-30 in New Jersey and continue all the way to Oregon without having to change numbers.

That might have been well and true 50 years ago but Interstates have made that redundant.


Not always the case (think US 101 north of Los Angeles, US 83's entire route, US 50 from Sacramento to Utah).

While I'm not a fan of California's decomissioning of many US routes in 1964 due to parallel Interstates supplanting them - and will always feel that the downgrade of US 99 to state route was truly unnecessary, what that did accomplish was keeping the US route on a higher level of importance than state routes in the Golden State.  (Of course, 99 should've remained in that case, but I digress.)

This also explains why when I-15 was first created, US 395 continued to run down all the way to downtown San Diego - it was only supplanted once California decided to upgrade the parallel corridors from Devore to Temecula, and the expressway/freeway through Escondido to San Diego.
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Chris Sampang

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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2010, 06:01:28 PM »

US routes still provide a more continuous route usually for non-freeway grade roads, and are more likely to go somewhere than a numbered route in some states.  Some state numbered routes kind of branch off a main route then conk out; best examples I can think of are the numbered spurs in Missouri that feed into state parks.  Or not be a non-continuous route with a gap in the middle such as some state highways in Indiana and Nebraska (excluding the US routes that have unsigned multiplexes with interstates and lack a "US X follow I-Y" sign).
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Brandon

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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2010, 06:07:09 PM »

US routes tend to be a level of service between interstate and state routes now from what I've seen, but many US route approach interstates in their level of service.  Contrary to Husker's statement up top, I've rarely seen people get them mixed up in Illinois and Michigan.  Mixing up seems to be common in Wisconsin where everything is "highway this" or "highway that".  In the former two, they are different with US routes being "US xx" or just "xx", and state routes being "Illinois xx" or "Route xx" in Illinois, and always "M xx" in Michigan.
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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2010, 06:14:53 PM »

This also explains why when I-15 was first created, US 395 continued to run down all the way to downtown San Diego - it was only supplanted once California decided to upgrade the parallel corridors from Devore to Temecula, and the expressway/freeway through Escondido to San Diego.

When I-15 was first created, its south end was in San Bernadino.  The idea of extending it to San Diego came later.  Then the upgrades of the non-freeway portions were built (with Temporary I-15 markers until upgraded to freeway).
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Truvelo

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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2010, 06:18:36 PM »

Mixing up seems to be common in Wisconsin where everything is "highway this" or "highway that".

Last year I was driving along US-14 west of Madison and I saw some Wis-14 signs instead of US ones.
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agentsteel53

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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2010, 06:20:05 PM »


Last year I was driving along US-14 west of Madison and I saw some Wis-14 signs instead of US ones.

Wisconsin is notorious for being ambiguous.

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TheStranger

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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2010, 06:20:33 PM »

This also explains why when I-15 was first created, US 395 continued to run down all the way to downtown San Diego - it was only supplanted once California decided to upgrade the parallel corridors from Devore to Temecula, and the expressway/freeway through Escondido to San Diego.

When I-15 was first created, its south end was in San Bernadino.  The idea of extending it to San Diego came later.  Then the upgrades of the non-freeway portions were built (with Temporary I-15 markers until upgraded to freeway).

Correct - the definition of I-15 from the creation of the interstate system to 1969 ran co-signed with US 395 (and US 66/91 in portions) to a southern terminus at I-10, while US 395 continued southwards to Riverside, Temecula, Escnodido, and then along the Cabrillo Freeway to downtown San Diego.

Now what I've never been quite sure about: between 1969 and 1974, was 15 originally extended simply straight down via 395 from I-10 to the Miramar airbase (and then south along then-unbuilt Route 103 to today's Route 15/I-5 junction in Logan Heights in San Diego), or was it always assigned to the Route 31 corridor on the west side, through Corona?
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Chris Sampang

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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #11 on: June 24, 2010, 06:24:15 PM »

as far as I know, there was never a jog along I-10, so it went down 395 as I-15 until the entire road was swapped onto the western alignment (is that what happened in 1974?  I know some signs with scraped off 31s and 71s are much newer than that).
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TheStranger

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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #12 on: June 24, 2010, 06:45:03 PM »

as far as I know, there was never a jog along I-10, so it went down 395 as I-15 until the entire road was swapped onto the western alignment (is that what happened in 1974?  I know some signs with scraped off 31s and 71s are much newer than that).

In 1974, I-15E/hidden State Route 194 was established on the 395 corridor between Devore and Temecula, while 15 was moved over to the Ontario Freeway route along 31/71 (which were legislatively deleted/truncated respectively); 1969 was the year that 15 first was assigned south of San Bernardino along 395's route from Hesperia to Miramar.  

I-15E became I-215 in 1982, after surviving the AASHTO guideline curtailing spurred suffixed routes in 1980 (as 15E, like the 35 splits, returned to its parent).

(Also as a result of the 1974 alignment switch, the road to Aguanga became Route 371.)

Cahighways.org seems to suggest that I-215 existed as early as 1969, but then became I-15E (before reverting), but that doesn't quite match the numbering history noted above.
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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2010, 06:53:29 PM »


Cahighways.org seems to suggest that I-215 existed as early as 1969, but then became I-15E (before reverting), but that doesn't quite match the numbering history noted above.

first I'd ever heard that.

I had thought that the already completed road eastern road (current I-215) was numbered I-15 until the other branch was completed, and the partially built segments of that western branch were called simply 31 and 71.

also, until 1993, I-215 was simply state route 215.  I think there were a few expressway sections even that late!  There was a sign in Perris from the 1970s that referred to "Temp I-15E", acknowledging that it was not yet a full freeway.
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CL

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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #14 on: June 24, 2010, 07:07:05 PM »

Utah is woefully ignorant in this regard. Many people refer to all routes (with the exception of interstates) as "highway," or (much less often) if they try to sound a bit more technical, "SR." The latter's fine. . .except when you're actually talking about a U.S. highway. All the time I see SR-6, SR-89, SR-40 in the media. Heck, I'd rather hear "Highway 89" than "SR-89". Our contractors have been known to make this mistake and often (okay, not often, but it sure is noticeable when they do) post state route shields meant for U.S. highways.

As an added note, whenever I have to give directions, I pointedly emphasize the "SR" or "US" part.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2010, 01:57:42 PM by CL »
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english si

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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #15 on: June 24, 2010, 07:08:41 PM »

Do US highways get a percentage of funding for maintenance and constructions from the Federal Government? I guess not, else CA, etc would have kept theirs. Is it simply that its a nationally numbered network?

Truvelo, would saying that US routes are like primary routes be sort of about right? With state roads as non-primary (which doesn't mean that they aren't busy, just that they aren't strategic). Obviously primary routes have their own colour signage and there's the trunk/non-trunk thing as well.
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mightyace

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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #16 on: June 24, 2010, 07:20:29 PM »

Do US highways get a percentage of funding for maintenance and constructions from the Federal Government?
Yes they do, but no more or less than a highway with a state shield.

Is it simply that its a nationally numbered network?
Yes.  And, assuming I'm saying this correctly, it was not even started as a federal program but an agreement between the states.

Truvelo, would saying that US routes are like primary routes be sort of about right? With state roads as non-primary (which doesn't mean that they aren't busy, just that they aren't strategic).
Yes on US routes, but not necessarily on state routes.  As has been mentioned before, some US routes have been decommissioned into state routes and some state routes could easily qualify for US or Interstate status.  One example is the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  It originally had no numbered designation, then was PA 9 and it now I-476.  I don't think that it suddenly became strategic when the put up the I-476 signs.

Sometimes a route is an SR for other reasons.  Some toll roads that would otherwise be Interstate are not because the state in question didn't want to go through the hassle of getting the exemption to sign it as an interstate.  TN 840 near me is a state route because it is being built entirely with state funds and, hence, is not subject to federal environmental laws and regulations, only state ones which are looser.

Obviously primary routes have their own colour signage and there's the trunk/non-trunk thing as well.
I have not seen anything on US or SR signs to differentiate, especially color, to denote whether it's a through highway or not.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2010, 07:23:07 PM by mightyace »
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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #17 on: June 24, 2010, 08:36:02 PM »

Some state highways are discontinued U.S. highways.  In Washington SR 99 and SR 410 are both discontinued U.S. highways.  SR 8 which becomes the mainline to the coast west of Olympia is another former section of U.S. 410.
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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #18 on: June 24, 2010, 09:14:26 PM »

When navigating strictly by route number ,I tend to expect things like bypasses of medium sized towns, a decent number of services,  a bit more traffic, and full shoulders on US highways. There are obviously hundreds of  exceptions to that rule in both directions, but if I know nothing about an area and want to head off-interstate, I feel like I know I'll be getting a decent level of service on a US Route, whereas on a state route there is no expectation of anything. The main exception would be that if I see a US route closely paralleling an interstate, like US 59 in Missouri, I'll expect that to move fairly slowly and not be really practical for interstate travel. A notable exception to that is US-30 in Nebraska from Wyoming to Grand Island, which moves pretty well (although lots of slowdowns through towns) and the road is quite well constructed.

Quote
Some state highways are discontinued U.S. highways.  In Washington SR 99 and SR 410 are both discontinued U.S. highways.  SR 8 which becomes the mainline to the coast west of Olympia is another former section of U.S. 410.

Don't forget SRs 4 (830), 10 (10!), 11 (99, 99 Alternate), and 14 (830)!

agentsteel53

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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #19 on: June 24, 2010, 09:15:48 PM »

The main exception would be that if I see a US route closely paralleling an interstate, like US 59 in Missouri, I'll expect that to move fairly slowly and not be really practical for interstate travel. A notable exception to that is US-30 in Nebraska from Wyoming to Grand Island, which moves pretty well (although lots of slowdowns through towns) and the road is quite well constructed.


I'd say the further west you are, the better the road is for fast travel.  For example, US-12 in Montana is doable averaging 85mph, and is even signed for 70.
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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #20 on: June 24, 2010, 09:54:40 PM »

Illinois 54 is another discontinued route. Funding is different Funding is based on the National Highway System which is the Interstates plus a mixture of US and State Routes ,picked by the states and Feds.that carry 40 percemt of all traffic.
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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #21 on: June 24, 2010, 10:35:22 PM »

As a foreigner I first thought US highways were maintained by central government and state highways by the individual state. Now though I believe they are all maintained by the state they're in and it's just used to denote a level of hierarchy. Road standard doesn't seem to come into it. Both US and state highways can be anything from 2-lane back streets to fully blown freeways.

Some maintenance may even be county-funded. I say this because of U.S. 49 in central Mississippi. Hinds County resurfaced the highway a few years ago and Yazoo County recently finished resurfacing too. The portion of 49 that runs through Madison County, in between Yazoo and Hinds, hasn't had any resurfacing. Same with nearby Rankin County. The road is quite bumpy around the Piney Woods area, but is much smoother from the Simpson County line southward. However, don't quote me on how much the county maintains the highways (if they really do).
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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #22 on: June 25, 2010, 12:04:02 AM »

As a foreigner I first thought US highways were maintained by central government and state highways by the individual state. Now though I believe they are all maintained by the state they're in and it's just used to denote a level of hierarchy. Road standard doesn't seem to come into it. Both US and state highways can be anything from 2-lane back streets to fully blown freeways.

Some maintenance may even be county-funded. I say this because of U.S. 49 in central Mississippi. Hinds County resurfaced the highway a few years ago and Yazoo County recently finished resurfacing too. The portion of 49 that runs through Madison County, in between Yazoo and Hinds, hasn't had any resurfacing. Same with nearby Rankin County. The road is quite bumpy around the Piney Woods area, but is much smoother from the Simpson County line southward. However, don't quote me on how much the county maintains the highways (if they really do).

In Arkansas, the pavement type often changes at county lines.  The state maintains the highways, however.
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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #23 on: June 25, 2010, 12:08:04 AM »

there are some states that have US and state routes with the same number.  (hell, in GA, US-27 intersects state route 27 at a 90-degree angle!)

the point of the US system is that they are continuous across the whole country - you can expect to get on US-30 in New Jersey and continue all the way to Oregon without having to change numbers.
All of a sudden, I'm for the decommissioning of US 30 all the way to Pocatello. Who wants a direct connection to New Jersey? :paranoid:
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Re: Differences between state and US highways
« Reply #24 on: June 25, 2010, 12:10:34 AM »

I suddenly understand why I-95 is such a mess.
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