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The Highway System

Total Road Mileage and Travel by Functional System - 2000

2 Pie charts illustrating total road mileage and travel by functional system

Roads and streets are grouped into functional systems according to the type of service they provide. The arterial system (including the Interstate System) accounts for about 11.1% of the Nation's total road and street mileage but carries 72.1% of total travel.

The Interstate System accounts for only 1.2% of the Nation's total miles of roadway; however, 24.1% of total travel occurs on this system. Conversely, local functional system roads account for 68.8% of the Nation's total road and street mileage but serve only 13.2% of total travel.


Interstate System: The Interstate System consists of all presently designated freeway routes meeting the Interstate geometric and construction standards for future traffic, except for portions in Alaska and Puerto Rico. The Interstate System is the highest classification of arterial roads and streets. It provides the highest level of mobility, at the highest speed, for a long uninterruped distance.

Other Arterials: These consist of limited access freeways, multi-lane highways, and other important highways supplementing the Interstate System that connect, as directly as practicable, the Nation's principal urbanized areas, cities, and industrial centers; serve the national defense; and connect at suitable border points with routes of continental importance.

Collectors: The collectors provide both land access service and traffic cerculation within residential neighborhoods, commercial and industrial areas, and downtown city centers. Collectors connect local roads and streets with arterials, and provide less mobility than arterials at lower speeds, and for a shorter distance.

Locals: The local roads and streets provide a high level of access to abutting land but limited mobility.

Ownership of U.S. Roads and Streets

Table showing ownership of U.S. roads and streets

The vast majority (77.4%) of the Nation's roadways are owned by units of local government (town, city, county). Only 3.0% are owned by the Federal Government; this includes roads in national forests and parks and on military and Indian reservations. The rest of the roadways (19.6%), including most of the Interstate System, are owned by the States.

Functional Systems Mileage

Table showing Functional Systems Mileage for Rural and Urban, and percent change from 1990 to 2000

Roads and streets are grouped into functional systems according to the type of service they provide, and on how much traffic they carry. Although functional classification may change over time to better describe the changing role that a particular road or street may be playing, the total mileage changes only slightly over time.

Decreases in rural systems mileage are the result of the expansion of urban boundaries and the functional reclassification of roads from rural to urban.

Annual Vehicle-Miles of Travel (Millions)

Table showing Annual Vehicle-Miles of Travel in Millions by Functional System and percent change from 1990 to 2000

Since 1990, total miles have increased only 2.1%, while travel has increased 28.9%. The urban travel increase of 30.6% has outpaced the rural 24.9% increase due to the Nation's continued growth in urbanization and expanded urban boundaries. The rural Other Principal Arterial system had the greatest travel growth (41.9%) during the 1990 to 2000 time period.

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United States Department of Transportation - Federal Highway Administration