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Author Topic: Why does Maryland sign non-Interstate freeways at 55 MPH max?  (Read 19778 times)

Revive 755

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Re: Why does Maryland sign non-Interstate freeways at 55 MPH max?
« Reply #50 on: August 04, 2012, 01:13:12 PM »

The definition of a freeway does not vary place-to-place. Whether the locals consider something a freeway does not make it a freeway. If it has intersections with cross traffic, it is an expressway or an arterial, not a freeway.

I though New Jesersy used to have the definitions of freeway and expressway reveresed?

The definition does vary or have a second meaning in Illinois, where there are signs that say "Notice of Freeway" plus a bunch of smaller text along roads that have very stringent access control, but may still have stoplights.
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1995hoo

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Re: Why does Maryland sign non-Interstate freeways at 55 MPH max?
« Reply #51 on: August 04, 2012, 03:14:11 PM »

I think to some degree you guys are arguing apples and oranges. The argument "deathtopumpkins" seems to be making is that from an MUTCD or highway engineer's standpoint the word "freeway" has a certain meaning regardless of what any state or local government says; in addition, there's no doubting that on this forum the word "freeway" is almost always used to refer to a particular class of road.

But it's also indisputable that states do indeed use these terms in other ways and that as a practical matter it would be futile to say, "You're using that word incorrectly." New York's use of "expressway" and "parkway" as terms for particular types of "freeways" has legal significance, for example, because commercial vehicles are banned from "parkways" and must use "expressways" instead, even if both the "parkway" and the "expressway" constitute a type of road generically called a "freeway." (Put differently: The Belt Parkway is a freeway. So is the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Trucks cannot legally use the Belt Parkway but may use the BQE.) Likewise, there's an arterial route named "Rockaway Freeway" that runs under the elevated A train on the Rockaway Peninsula. You'd look like a fool if you insisted on calling it "Rockaway Expressway" due to an insistence on the word "freeway" having a particular meaning. I can think of other places where I've been on a road that falls within the "generic" definition of "freeway" and as I've approached the end of that portion I've seen a sign saying "Expressway Ends 1/4 Mile" or the like. The sign is perfectly clear and I think it's rather semantic to quibble with "freeway" versus "expressway" in that situation, especially if local practice is to use the term "expressway" in that context. (edited to add: One example is on I-70 approaching Breezewood from the south, where warning signs advise "Expressway Ends.")

As I mentioned in another thread, the term "freeway" isn't generally used much where I live in Virginia except in the form "the Freeway" in reference to one particular segment of highway in the District of Columbia (the Southwest–Southeast Freeway). Nobody ever says things like "take the I-95 freeway to Exit 170 and then take the 495 freeway to Exit 52." They'd say "take I-95 to Exit 170 and then take the Beltway to Exit 52." (Actually they'd put a suffix on "170" but I forget which letter it is...and I don't care!) Those California "Freeway Entrance" signs are something I've never seen other than in pictures because they aren't used here and I've never been to California.

In general I've grown up hearing people say "the highway" to refer to what "deathtopumpkins" is referring to as a "freeway"—for example, "I was going to take the highway to Tysons until I heard a truck had overturned, so I took the streets instead."

Long way of saying, there is nothing wrong with regional variance in popular usage, as long as in the legal and engineering context people can understand their own agreed-upon terms.


(It's sort of like "stoop" versus "porch." A lot of people where I live refer to the front stoop as a "porch," whereas I've always understood a "porch" to be something fancier and more elaborate. But I'm not going to "correct" someone and say, "That's a stoop, not a porch." I'd look like an asshole. Doesn't stop me from referring to it as the stoop, though, and nobody's ever asked me what I meant by that. I think "freeway" and "expressway" are similar in that the average man on the street would typically understand exactly what you meant if you were giving directions and doesn't know nor care nor need to know that from a legal or engineering standpoint there's a difference—in other words, if I told you "there are a bunch of long red lights, so take the freeway," or "there are a bunch of long red lights, so take the highway," or "there are a bunch of long red lights, so take the expressway," do you really think you'd be confused or that you'd think I meant something different by each of those? I don't. If I said any of those it would be the "highway" version, BTW, although more likely I'd just give the road number.)
« Last Edit: August 04, 2012, 04:30:14 PM by 1995hoo »
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PurdueBill

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Re: Why does Maryland sign non-Interstate freeways at 55 MPH max?
« Reply #52 on: August 04, 2012, 05:19:49 PM »

Does the word "freeway" ever get used around Boston?  Growing up there, I think the only time I heard the word "freeway" was visiting other places.  The Southeast Expressway is a freeway but is called an expressway.  Seems to be that way in many places in the northeast.  Indiana uses the word "expressway" for some freeways...I-469 is named Ronald Reagan Expressway, not Freeway, which led to an exercise in pedantry on the I-469 Wikipedia page last year as someone inserted commentary about Indiana using the wrong word, and we know of the Borman Expressway in Indiana.  Chicago lingo also uses Expressway for Interstate highways (Edens, Eisenhower, etc. etc. etc.).  So indeed it is a regional thing.
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1995hoo

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Re: Why does Maryland sign non-Interstate freeways at 55 MPH max?
« Reply #53 on: August 04, 2012, 05:27:54 PM »

.... led to an exercise in pedantry ....

That's kind of my point. It's not pedantic for regulatory authorities or highway engineers to be precise in their usage of these words, but it's pedantic to insist that public usage, or state law usage, is "wrong."

(BTW, precision in wording is something that's often very important in what I do for a living—I'm an attorney. But one of the things you learn in the legal profession is the importance of the concept of "reasonableness." Arguing that a sign on I-70 that says "Expressway Ends" is "wrong" because it "should" say "Freeway Ends" is not reasonable.)
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
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"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

cpzilliacus

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Re: Why does Maryland sign non-Interstate freeways at 55 MPH max?
« Reply #54 on: August 04, 2012, 06:20:10 PM »

Does the word "freeway" ever get used around Boston?  Growing up there, I think the only time I heard the word "freeway" was visiting other places.  The Southeast Expressway is a freeway but is called an expressway.  Seems to be that way in many places in the northeast.  Indiana uses the word "expressway" for some freeways...I-469 is named Ronald Reagan Expressway, not Freeway, which led to an exercise in pedantry on the I-469 Wikipedia page last year as someone inserted commentary about Indiana using the wrong word, and we know of the Borman Expressway in Indiana.  Chicago lingo also uses Expressway for Interstate highways (Edens, Eisenhower, etc. etc. etc.).  So indeed it is a regional thing.

When I write "freeway," I mean functional class, not what the road is named.  Freeways don't have to be free from tolls, but they do need to have full access control with no roads or streets intersecting at-grade (I suppose exceptions for "official use only" entrances and exits, and, in some areas, "farm" roads are acceptable).

In Maryland and Virginia and D.C., we have freeways that are freeways (S.E./S.W. in D.C., Anacostia in D.C. and Md.); "highways" that are freeways (I-395 and I-95, Henry G. Shirley Memorial Highway in Va. and U.S. 50 John Hanson Highway in Md.); "beltways" that are freeways (I-495 Capital and I-695 Baltimore); "expressways" that are freeways (I-83, Jones Falls and Harrisburg); a "connector" that's a freeway (Md. 200); "parkways" (in  name) that are expressways (Va. 286, Fairfax County and Va. 289, Franconia Springfield); parkways that are managed by the National Park Service as "true" parkways but have a functional class of expressway.

In nearby Jefferson County, W.Va., part of U.S. 340 is called the William L. Wilson Freeway, but it is almost certainly classified as an expressway, or maybe a principal arterial highway.

And that's just a few.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2012, 06:23:05 PM by cpzilliacus »
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deathtopumpkins

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Re: Why does Maryland sign non-Interstate freeways at 55 MPH max?
« Reply #55 on: August 04, 2012, 08:28:27 PM »

Does the word "freeway" ever get used around Boston?  Growing up there, I think the only time I heard the word "freeway" was visiting other places.  The Southeast Expressway is a freeway but is called an expressway.

Yes, when referring to a class of road, but never referring to a road's name. There is no "such-and-such Freeway" in Massachusetts (that I know of), just Expressways (Southeast, Southwest, Northeast, East Boston) and Highways (Yankee Division) mostly.

vdeane

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Re: Why does Maryland sign non-Interstate freeways at 55 MPH max?
« Reply #56 on: August 05, 2012, 12:26:25 PM »

Local usage can change for a class of road too.  In upstate NY, freeways are called expressways.  Expressways don't even have a term in local parlance because there are so few of them in NY, and almost all of the ones we have were built in the last 20 or so years.  Note that the roads I mentioned before are considered "expressways" (which, again, is what we call freeways in upstate NY) by the locals; they don't get downgraded in the minds of anyone except people here to "highways" just because of the at-grades.
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mcmc

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Re: Why does Maryland sign non-Interstate freeways at 55 MPH max?
« Reply #57 on: August 08, 2012, 02:46:06 AM »

This topic has veered a bit off-topic. Can we confirm that the only non-Interstate freeways in Maryland to be signed above 55 are:

- US 13 (Salisbury Bypass)
- US 340 (south of Frederick)
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vdeane

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Re: Why does Maryland sign non-Interstate freeways at 55 MPH max?
« Reply #58 on: August 08, 2012, 03:24:50 PM »

This topic has veered a bit off-topic. Can we confirm that the only non-Interstate freeways in Maryland to be signed above 55 are:

- US 13 (Salisbury Bypass)
- US 340 (south of Frederick)
Yeah, forum topics tend to drift.  I was once on a forum where topics tended to drift so far that the end of the thread wasn't even related to the forum's subject matter at all.
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Beltway

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Re: Why does Maryland sign non-Interstate freeways at 55 MPH max?
« Reply #59 on: August 08, 2012, 05:48:28 PM »

This topic has veered a bit off-topic. Can we confirm that the only non-Interstate freeways in Maryland to be signed above 55 are:

- US 13 (Salisbury Bypass)
- US 340 (south of Frederick)

True to the best of my knowledge.

As has been posted, the unsigned I-595 segment on US-50 is 65 mph, but still was built to Interstate standards as an Interstate highway.
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Re: Why does Maryland sign non-Interstate freeways at 55 MPH max?
« Reply #60 on: August 14, 2012, 03:05:38 PM »

On the other hand, I cannot think of a single 2-lane road off the top of my head in either CT or RI that's posted above 50, not even in the far corners of the state, and I can name some in Massachusetts, but only two that aren't super-2 freeways (US 1 from Rowley to Newburyport and a brief stretch near Attleboro)
Back in my Driver's Ed days (Fall of 1981); the MA speed limits were the following:

School Zones: 20 (unless otherwise posted)
Thickly-Settled Districts/Areas, non-divided roads: 30 (unless otherwise posted)
Non-thickly-settled, non-divided roads/highways: 40 (unless otherwise posted)
Divided highways: 50 (unless otherwise posted)

Needless to say even back then, most divided highways in the Bay State fell in the unless otherwise posted (at 55 then, 55-65 now) category.

Similar can be said for non-divided roads; except that the maximum posted speed is no higher than 55 mph.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2012, 03:10:56 PM by PHLBOS »
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