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Difference Between Interstate and Highway

In the wake of the two world wars and at the dawn of the cold war, President Dwight D. Eisenhower viewed a national road system to link nations and connecting cities and suburbs together. The Interstate Highway Act of 1956 was hailed as an enduring marvel of transportation system in terms of design and construction. The undertaking became the largest public works program in the history of the United States of America and which resulted in the construction of more than 40,000 miles of interconnected highways across all states. The network has been extended since then. But the question remains; what is the difference between an interstate and a highway? Modern roads can be classified by function or type. The basic type is probably the highways which are typically any private or public road that connect major routes. Beyond this are interstate highways, commonly referred to as interstates which, as the name suggests, connect different states together. Let’s explore the differences between the two.

 

Highway

Highway is just a word to describe any public or private road with many lanes that connect one city to another. Highways are a controlled-access roadway designed for medium to high-level vehicular traffic and serve major centers of metropolitan areas including major cities and towns. Any road that facilitates fast moving traffic and which may or may not be a restricted access travel way can be designated as a highway. According to the Federal Highways Administration, highways are not a roadway functional classification. In fact, highways are classified as: Principal Arterial that includes freeways or expressways, and interstate highways (interstates); Minor Arterial which serves geographic areas smaller than their Principal Arterial counterparts; and Collectors that connect local roads to Arterial networks. Even a freeway or an interstate can be considered a highway, but then so are many different types of roads.

 

Interstate

Unlike highways which are controlled-access or limited access roadways, interstates are restricted access roadways that go across state boundaries to connect different cities. Interstates are a wide network of controlled-access or restricted-access highways that form a major part of a nation’s highway system. They are a part of what is officially known as the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways – named after the 34th President of the United States and one of America’s greatest military commanders, Dwight D. Eisenhower. The first funding for the Interstate Highway System was approved by the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1952 which served as a catalyst for the development of the highway system and ultimately, its completion. Presently there are over 42,000 miles of interstate highways connecting major cities across the United States.

 

Difference between Interstate and Highway

Classification

– All interstate highways can be considered highways, but not all highways are interstates. According to the Federal Highways Administration, highways are not a roadway functional classification. In fact, highway is a general term that is used to describe any public or private road that serve medium to heavy vehicular traffic. Even freeways and expressways are highways designed exclusively for high-speed vehicular traffic. Interstates, on the other hand, are a wide network of controlled-access or restricted-access highways that form a major part of a nation’s highway system. Interstates can also be considered highways but not the other way around.

Access

– The main difference between a highway and an interstate is access. Unlike highways which are controlled-access or limited access roadways, interstates are restricted access roadways that go across state boundaries to connect different states. Highways serve major centers of metropolitan areas including major cities and towns, whereas interstates connect different states together. Interstates are generally restricted access roadways with limited or no tolls and no stop lights or no on/off ramp. Interstates are a part of what is officially known as the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, commonly known as the Interstate Highway System.

Noise and Pollution

– On interstates, the disturbing and annoying noise levels created by trucks and other commercial vehicles are at the minimum because vehicles travel at a relatively constant speed without the need for acceleration or deceleration. As a result, the air pollution emissions are reduced. Plus, the recent advances in the design of interstate highways make them aesthetically appealing, thereby minimizing neighborhood social and economic disruption. On the contrary, carbon monoxide emissions are marginally high on highways because the amount of unburned gasoline increases sharply when engine is accelerated or decelerated continuously. So, noise and pollution levels are comparatively higher on highways.

Interstate vs. Highway: Comparison Chart

 

Summary

In a nutshell, highways are a controlled-access roadway designed for medium to high-level vehicular traffic and serve major centers of metropolitan areas including major cities and towns. However, unlike highways which are controlled-access or limited access roadways, interstates are restricted access roadways that go across state boundaries to connect different states. Any road that facilitates fast moving traffic and which may or may not be a restricted access travel way can be designated as a highway. Interstates, on the other hand, are a wide network of controlled-access or restricted-access highways that form a major part of the nation’s highway system.

  

Sagar Khillar

Sagar Khillar is a prolific content/article/blog writer working as a Senior Content Developer/Writer in a reputed client services firm based in India. He has that urge to research on versatile topics and develop high-quality content to make it the best read. Thanks to his passion for writing, he has over 7 years of professional experience in writing and editing services across a wide variety of print and electronic platforms.

Outside his professional life, Sagar loves to connect with people from different cultures and origin. You can say he is curious by nature. He believes everyone is a learning experience and it brings a certain excitement, kind of a curiosity to keep going. It may feel silly at first, but it loosens you up after a while and makes it easier for you to start conversations with total strangers – that’s what he said."

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References :


[0]History.com Editors. “The Interstate Highway System.” HISTORY, A&E Television Networks, 27 May 2010. https://www.history.com/topics/us-states/interstate-highway-system. Accessed 23 Sept. 2019.

[1]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Interstate_581_northern_terminus.jpg

[2]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ontario_Hwy_115-35_at_Hwy_2.jpg

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