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Old 03-11-2015, 01:58 PM
 
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I was traveling out to Iowa over the Christmas holidays by car and as I was trying to plan my trip one thing stood out for me: How difficult it is to determine what kind of road you will be traveling on.

The red, white and blue shield automatically tells you that you are driving on an Interstate highway, which is always going to be a freeway. But when it comes to US and state routes, there is really no good way to know if you will be driving on a freeway, four lane divided highway, two lane highway or congested local road.

At the very least, they should come up with a colored shield or a code for freeway segments. For example, US 20 where it is a freeway would either have a red, white and blue shield or it could be called US 20-F (Freeway)

Any other ideas?
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Old 03-11-2015, 02:34 PM
 
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Example of Interstate/State/US shields:


State shields:


The pictures above don't really answer your questions but i think the Red/White/Blue shield should be reserved for the Interstate highway system. While similar, an interstate highway has different design standards than a freeway section of a US route.
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Old 03-11-2015, 03:05 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WheresTheBeef View Post
At the very least, they should come up with a colored shield or a code for freeway segments. For example, US 20 where it is a freeway would either have a red, white and blue shield or it could be called US 20-F (Freeway)

Any other ideas?

Not a bad idea for the signage. But as far as travelling I think maps already handle this pretty well.

In New Jersey most state highways are 4-6 lanes unless it's in a rural area. The well signed "County Routes" (the pentagon shaped sign in the link below) are occasionally multi-laned affairs but mostly are two lanes. When the county routes have 3 numbers (eg 520, 537, 561) they typically run through multiple counties. When they have two numbers (eg 11, 24) they generally stay in one county.
http://www.charliesballparks.com/cha...j/nj3-0502.jpg

As you point out, the signage is meant to tell you less about the width of the road and more about where it goes, who maintains it, and it's place in the hierarchy of roads. If I was lost with no map I'd much rather turn on to a federal highway than down a county road.
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Old 03-11-2015, 06:11 PM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WheresTheBeef View Post
At the very least, they should come up with a colored shield or a code for freeway segments. For example, US 20 where it is a freeway would either have a red, white and blue shield or it could be called US 20-F (Freeway)
I agree, though at least with a map you can tell what type of road it is. Many state road and federal roads switch between freeway and non-freeway, the number should stay the same but a marker could be used. It's usually clear that the road you're near is a freeway when nearby. Smaller cities often have a short freeway stretch that return to a regular road.

Last edited by nei; 03-11-2015 at 08:11 PM..
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Old 03-11-2015, 07:39 PM
 
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Then there are the county roads. Some counties don't even designate county route numbers. Others do but don't put up markers. They come in a rainbow of colors, though blue with yellow letters is common. http://www.routemarkers.com/usa/county.html

Last edited by pvande55; 03-11-2015 at 07:41 PM.. Reason: Add link
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Old 03-11-2015, 08:10 PM
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Hmm. I don't think I've seen any county roads here.
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Old 03-12-2015, 09:12 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by impala096 View Post
Example of Interstate/State/US shields:
i think the Red/White/Blue shield should be reserved for the Interstate highway system. While similar, an interstate highway has different design standards than a freeway section of a US route.
Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
I agree, though at least with a map you can tell what type of road it is. Many state road and federal roads switch between freeway and non-freeway, the number should stay the same but a marker could be used. It's usually clear that the road you're near is a freeway when nearby. Smaller cities often have a short freeway stretch that return to a regular road.
I'm not saying these sections should be signed with an interstate marker, just use the same US Route or State Route marker but with the same red/white/blue colors as an interstate marker. Most people would be able to figure out that this means it is a freeway section over time with consistent colors like that. Then the "near-freeway" (limited access) stretches could be called something like US 20-H (Highway) or maybe use a different color. Everything else would keep the existing signs.

If you like to avoid congested roads or two lane roads on trips, it would make trip planning a lot easier. Having never been to Iowa, it took a little bit of work figuring out whether US 18, 20 and 218 were two or four lane highways.

Since more US and State Routes are becoming Freeway, I think this is a necessary tweak to signage standards.
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Old 03-12-2015, 09:21 AM
 
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I like the uniqueness of highway signs, and basically every little thing that doesn't make travelling to different cities and states seem so 'placeless', or like you haven't even left home.


Quote:
there is really no good way to know if you will be driving on a freeway, four lane divided highway, two lane highway or congested local road.
You can't even tell this by looking at an interstate shield, as Interstate highway quality varies greatly between states and different areas.

Google maps exists now, you can look at each highway segment before you leave if it matters that much. And you can easily avoid 'congestion' by avoiding cities, if that's your goal.

Freeway, highway, etc, aren't even really actual things (anymore - maybe they used to be), but rather regional terms that typically mean the same thing. Finally your average modern city street is built to freeway standards (12 ft lanes, gently sweeping curves, etc) so the designation means less and less all the time.

Last edited by TheOverdog; 03-12-2015 at 09:29 AM..
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Old 03-12-2015, 09:33 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheOverdog View Post
I like the uniqueness of highway signs, and basically every little thing that doesn't make travelling to different cities and states seem so 'placeless', or like you haven't even left home.



You can't even tell this by looking at an interstate shield, as Interstate highway quality varies greatly between states and different areas.

Google maps exists now, you can look at each highway segment before you leave if it matters that much. And you can easily avoid 'congestion' by avoiding cities, if that's your goal.

Freeway, highway, etc, aren't even really actual things (anymore - maybe they used to be), but rather regional terms that typically mean the same thing. Finally your average modern city street is built to freeway standards (12 ft lanes, gently sweeping curves, etc) so the designation means less and less all the time.
I am a person who generally likes to use interstates, even though I agree they vary in quality. (I-70 in Pennsylvania and Missouri are among the worst.) Sometimes, that's not practical because you are going too many miles out of your way. I just want a better way of knowing I'm not going to get stuck on long two lane segments which often sucks.

Even if you are driving through a city, depending on the map you are using you wouldn't know where all the freeways are given the current system for signing. For example, Ohio 104, 161 and 315 are freeways in certain spots in the Columbus area but if you're driving in from out of state, there is no way of knowing that as you whiz by the sign at 70 mph and have to make a quick decision such as when traffic is backed up. In Cincinnati, it's not obvious that Ohio 126, 127 and 562 are freeway sections.

Get my drift? Mark Steyn was making fun of how oversigned our highways are and his jokes ring true. I guess Lady Bird Johnson didn't anticipate government sign pollution when she did away with billboards. We have so many signs for everything else yet they haven't addressed something so obvious.

Last edited by WheresTheBeef; 03-12-2015 at 09:42 AM..
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Old 03-12-2015, 09:57 AM
 
Location: Phoenix, AZ
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The only issue with trying to designate the type of road a state / US highway is, is that the roads often change types.

Take, for example, MS-25 (Mississippi Highway 25). I used to drive that stretch of road weekly, from Jackson, MS to Starkville, MS. Here's a random stretch. (Google Street View).

For most of the highway, it looks like that -- four lane divided, with a soft shoulder. It has a mix of overpass intersections, and grade-level intersections (with right of way given to MS-25). While it may "feel" like a freeway, it cannot be designated as such (or MS-25-F, suggesting it's a freeway). Sure, there's overpasses, but there's no hard shoulder, there's plenty of at-grade intersections, and even a few traffic lights. As you enter Jackson, MS-25 is designated as "Lakeland Drive" -- a busy road, with several lit intersections, and retail on both sides of the road. The transition from business-district to inter-city highway is gradual, there's not really a specific point where it "becomes" a highway.

Another example is US-60, through the Phoenix metro area. Coming in from the east, US-60 is a two-lane highway through the desert. Outside of Superior, AZ (before reaching the metro area), US-60 east- and west-bound lanes split, and it quickly becomes a four lane divided highway with grade-level intersections. Upon entering Apache Junction, US-60 becomes a full grade-separated freeway. So in about 24 miles, the road goes from a 2-lane rural highway, to a full-on freeway. US-60 is it's own freeway throughout the eastern part of the Phoenix metro, until it runs into I-10. The US-60 corridor joins I-10 to downtown Phoenix, and [splits off with I-17 on the south side of downtown. (Note sign: North I-17, West US-60, exit only).

But wait, there's more! After clearing downtown, in order to follow US-60 you must exit I-17 at the Thomas / Grand Ave exit. Once off the freeway, you have to turn left onto Thomas Road to follow US-60. Before I continue, I should mention -- Phoenix is on a grid system, with Grand Avenue (the original US-60 corridor, and the original highway into Phoenix) cutting diagonally across the grid. The modern Grand Ave switches between a separated, near-freeway, and a surface street.

Now then, to continue on US-60, you have to cross under Grand Ave (which, as I said, USED to be US-60 for the whole stretch), and then turn right onto 27th Ave. You then cross under Grand Ave again, pass a shopping center, and turn left onto the on-ramp (which, of course, has an at-grade railroad crossing). Once merging on, Grand Ave becomes US-60 -- which is clearly a surface street... Until it isn't. But then it's a surface street again. You see, US-60 / Grand Avenue cuts a 45 degree diagonal across the 1 mile by 1 mile grid system. This means every 1.41 miles it will cross over an intersection between two major roads -- creating a six-way intersection between three major roads. Phoenix traffic engineers "solved" this problem, by having either Grand Avenue, or one of the other surface streets, become an overpass with entry / exit ramps. This pattern continues through Phoenix and Glendale, until US-60 crosses loop 101, where it decides to stay as a busy surface street. A few miles later, the developed area thins out, until US-60 is once again a four lane highway through the desert. Entering Wickenburg, AZ, US-60 becomes a surface street again, becomes one of the main downtown roads for about two blocks, and then becomes grade-separated for a couple of blocks, before becoming a surface street again.. Leaving Wickenburg, US-60 goes back to a two-lane highway through the desert.

So, to recap, in 118 miles through the Sonoran Desert, US-60 changes types of roads about 12 times (counting the fustercluck of "Grand Avenue" as one "type", as it's its own category).

That said, from an urban planning perspective, the drive down US-60 (that is, staying true to the original US-60 route) is actually really interesting. When US-60 enters Apache Junction, the original alignment can still be followed. Get off at Old West Highway, and follow Apache Trail through the east part of the metro area. It becomes Main Street in Mesa, and Apache Road in Tempe, before turning north and becoming Mill Avenue (going through downtown Tempe). Mill Avenue crosses the Salt River basin (Tempe was founded as a ferry crossing across the river, now dammed up). On the other side, in Phoenix, it becomes Van Buren Street. In downtown Phoenix, the original US-60 turned off of Van Buren, and onto Grand Avenue, leaving the Phoenix area to the Northwest. Doing the drive today, you can see relics of the old highway -- motels, diners, neon signs. Looking at "before" pictures of Phoenix in the 50's and 60's, and finding the current locations today is very eye opening on how much the Valley of the Sun has changed in the past 50 years.
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