[Talk-us] "highway" tags in the US

Alex Mauer hawke at hawkesnest.net
Tue Mar 4 01:55:00 GMT 2008

am12 at bolis.com wrote:
>>> For instance, OR217 and US26 west of Portland are both divided,
>>> multi-lane, limited access highways.  Despite not being interstates,
>>> they *ARE* motorways.
>> Hmm, are you sure?  maybe they just look like motorways; there are a lot
>> of almost-motorway roads
> Hmm.  I'm confused by that.  I don't quite understand what it would mean
> for something to just look like a motorway but not be one.
> As far as I can tell, this is an open community project, and terms have to
> be defined by the group to be useful.  There is no US Department of
> Transportation statement declaring what kind of road qualifies as a
> "motorway", nor what kind doesn't.

No, but there's a standard for Interstates [1], which we've taken to be 
equivalent to the extent that there's not a need for a separate tag for 
UK motorways vs. US Interstates (vs. the Autobahn, etc.)

> So we need to muddle through it
> ourselves.
> There are an awful lot of people in the US who recognize what a freeway
> is, regardless of whether they know which bureaucrat signs the check for
> the little bumpy dots between the lanes.
> If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we
> should call it a duck.  If it is high-speed multi-lane restricted access
> way with cloverleaf entrances, we should call it a motorway.

What about other types of interchange, e.g. diamond, parclo, etc.[2]?

> of whether it is part of the US Interstate Highway system or not.

Here I agree.  My only point of contention is what qualifies as 
duck-quacking for our purposes...certainly a highway that meets the 
standards without being designated should be tagged as motorway, but as 
the link should make clear, it's not all obvious whether a given piece 
of the road meets those standards.

> I hope I don't sound confrontational.  Are we saying the same thing?  I've
> definitely been pondering this myself as to how to classify or judge these
> tags.  Good discussion.

I hope the same for myself.  I'd really like to get this hashed out, 
just so the group can come to some agreement on an unambiguous 
definition for a motorway.  If that means "limited access, minimum 
median width, minimum lane width, minimum vertical/horizontal 
clearance", even if this means that some non-standard roads are marked 
as motorways, I don't have a problem with it -- as long as there's 
agreement on what exactly qualifies.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstate_Highway_standards describes 
it, and references standards documents regarding it.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interchange_%28road%29

-Alex Mauer "hawke"

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