roads and road signs

The US road system is the largest in the world, mainly because of the long distances between cities. The distance between Boston and San Francisco, for instance, is more than 3 000 miles (4 827 kilometres). The US began to build the interstate highway system in 1956. By 1998 it had more than 42 000 miles (67 578 kilometres) of road and carried 21% of America’s traffic. The interstate system greatly helped the country’s economy, but it also hurt the economies of many small towns not on an interstate. Interstates running north to south have odd numbers and those going from east to west have even numbers. They often have only two or three lanes in each direction through the countryside but may have eight or more each way through cities. The New Jersey Turnpike, for instance, has 12 lanes each way near New York City.
  Other major roads in the US are called superhighways, freeways, expressways, thruways or parkways. There are also many county and local roads, called variously arterial roads, feeder roads or farm roads. Some states have tollways or turnpikes, on which drivers must pay a toll.
  Interstate highways are marked with red and blue signs showing an ‘I’ followed by the road’s number. Other US highways have red, white and blue signs. Some state roads, like those in Louisiana and Texas, have signs in the shape of the state. Since 1995 states have been able to set their own speed limits. This is usually 65 or 70 mph (105 or 112 kph) on interstate roads but lower on other main roads.
  In Britain the fastest and most direct routes between major cities are by motorways, which usually have three lanes of traffic in each direction and a speed limit of 70 mph (112 kph). Each motorway is identified by the letter ‘M’ and a number. Main roads other than motorways are called A-roads and are numbered A6, A34, etc. Some A-roads are dual carriageways with two or more lanes each way. Most A-roads now follow a bypass round towns. Narrower roads which have only one lane in each direction are called B-roads. Most roads have white lines and catseyes ™ (= lights sunk into the ground) down the middle. Only a very few roads have tolls. Narrow country roads below B-road standard may be known locally by the name of the place they go to, e.g. Orston Lane.
  In Britain the Highway Code describes the many signs placed beside roads. Red circular signs give instructions that must by law be obeyed. These include ‘no overtaking’ signs and signs about speed limits. Red triangular signs give warnings about possible dangers ahead, e.g. slippery roads. Direction signs to major towns are blue on motorways and green on other roads; signs to smaller places are white. Old-fashioned signposts can still be seen in some country areas.
  In the US red road signs, like ‘Stop’, must be obeyed. Signs that indicate danger, as in areas where rocks might fall, have a yellow diamond shape. Arrows indicating bends in the road are shown in green circles on white signs. Many other US road signs are now similar to those in Europe.
  In Britain there is pressure from both business and private road users for more and better roads, despite the damage to the environment and increase in pollution that this may cause. People who are against the building of new roads regularly challenge proposed routes of new motorways or bypasses. If they fail, environmentalists set up protest camps along the route of the new road. Recently, experts too have cast doubt on the wisdom of building more roads, saying it simply encourages greater use of cars. In the US there are few protests against road-building. People generally want more roads to make their journeys faster and more convenient.

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Universalium. 2010.

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