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National Highway System Questions & Answers

Posted 9/25/2012, Updated 5/23/2013

General Information

Question 1: What is meant by "enhanced NHS"? (added 5/23/2013)

Answer 1: The "enhanced NHS" is a term used to refer to the National Highway System that was expanded or enhanced by MAP-21. The term "enhanced NHS" is a general descriptive term and is not specifically cited as such in the statutory language. On October 1, 2012, Section 1104 of MAP-21 added to the NHS those roads that were at that time functionally classified as principal arterials but not yet part of the System. The NHS was expanded to about 230,000 total miles with these additions.

Question 2: Do Federal requirements apply to the enhanced NHS? (added 5/23/2013)

Answer 2: Yes. All highways on the NHS, including those segments added by MAP-21, must comply with applicable Federal regulations. These requirements include design standards, contract administration, State-FHWA oversight procedures, Highway Performance Monitoring System reporting, National Bridge Inventory reporting, national performance measures data collection, and outdoor advertisement/junkyard control.

The FHWA conducted a webinar on March 20, 2013 titled "The Enhanced NHS and Requirements Under MAP-21" to disseminate information on these requirements. The webinar can be found here: https://connectdot.connectsolutions.com/p1hx0xpyxnh/.

Detailed information and guidance on design standards is posted on the FHWA Web site at (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/design/standards/).

Question 3: Will all principal arterials that are not currently on the NHS be automatically added to the NHS, effective October 1, 2012?

Answer 3: Yes, principal arterial routes that are not currently on the NHS before October 1, 2012, will automatically be added to the NHS provided the principal arterials connect to the NHS. [23 USC 103(b) (2)(1)(B) as amended by Section 1104 of MAP-21] The automatic addition of the identified principal arterial routes to the NHS will be a onetime occurrence. Future additions to the NHS of eligible principal arterial routes after October 1, 2012, will follow procedures currently outlined in 23 CFR Part 470.

Question 4: How will the States be notified about the updated NHS?

Answer 4: The FHWA, through our Division Offices, will notify the States of the updated NHS via a memorandum and will post new NHS maps online by October 1, 2012.
http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/national_highway_system/nhs_maps/

Question 5: Should States work with Division Offices to make any desired changes to the existing classification of principal arterials prior to October 1, 2012?

Answer 5: Yes. Pursuant to the FHWA's September 5, 2012, memorandum, States were advised to work with their respective Division Offices to review roads classified as principal arterial within the State and identify any functional classification changes needed to the principal arterial system. A listing of any changes to the classification of principal arterials and the subsequent Division Office approval of any changes your State may request was due to the Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty by September 20, 2012.

Question 6: What criteria will be used to determine which principal arterials will be automatically added on the NHS?

Answer 6: The FHWA will determine which principal arterials will be automatically added to the NHS by following current criteria for adding a route to the NHS under 23 CFR 470.113. Under this regulation, the route must meet the criteria in 23 CFR 470.107(b), which provides that the NHS shall consist of interconnected urban and rural principal arterials and highways which serve major population centers, international border crossings, ports, airports, public transportation facilities, other intermodal transportation facilities, and other major travel destinations; meet national defense requirements; and serve interstate and interregional travel.

The criteria under 23 CFR 470.113 also require proposals for additions to the NHS to consider the guidance contained in Appendix D to 23 CFR Part 470. The FHWA will follow the guidelines of Appendix D, except that the FHWA will not require the route to connect at both ends to other routes on the NHS. Rather, the FHWA will add a principal arterial to the NHS if it connects only at one end. Requiring a connection at one end will continue to meet the regulatory requirement that the NHS be interconnected. The FHWA will initiate a rulemaking to update the guidance contained in Appendix D to 23 CFR Part 470 at some future date.

Question 7: Before October 1, 2012, what do States need to submit to FHWA?

Answer 7: States are not required to submit any documentation, such as formal letters, principal arterial maps, or route listings, prior to October 1, 2012 in order for facilities that are currently classified as principal arterials to be included on the NHS. For facilities that are not currently classified as principal arterials, FHWA Divisions will work with States to make the necessary classification changes (see Q&A #12 below).

Question 8: What information will FHWA use to update the NHS maps?

Answer 8: The FHWA will use the principal arterial coding from the 2011 Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS) to update the NHS maps. For those States where the 2011 data year is not currently available, in the interim, FHWA will use the principal arterial coding from the 2010 HPMS data submission. However, after October 1, 2012, when the updated NHS maps are officially released, the State should follow procedures under 23 CFR 470.113 to make further/future modifications to the System (except that principal arterials will only need to connect at one end). At that time, a formal submittal with supporting documentation will be required.

Question 9: Will the Divisions have to screen the additions?

Answer 9: No, the automatic addition of the identified principal arterial routes to the NHS, effective October 1, 2012, will be a one-time occurrence (based on the data contained in the 2011/2010 HPMS submission) and will occur without Division Office screening. After October 1, 2012, the Divisions will need to screen any proposed modifications to the NHS.

Question 10: Should Division Offices encourage the States to start designating all principal arterials as part of the NHS?

Answer 10: No, FHWA will use State-submitted 2011 HPMS data to identify principal arterials to include in the updated NHS. For some States where the 2011 data year is not currently available, in the interim, FHWA will use the principal arterial coding from 2010 HPMS data submission.

Question 11: Will principal arterials connected to the NHS be eligible for National Highway Performance Program (NHPP) funding? [23 USC 119(c) as amended by Section 1106 of MAP-21]

Answer 11: Yes, as of October 1, 2012, principal arterials that are on the NHS and that connect to the NHS will be eligible for NHPP funding.

Question 12: Is there a restriction on mileage under the updated NHS?

Answer 12: No, effective October 1, 2012, there will no longer be restrictions on maximum NHS mileage.

Intermodal Connectors

Question 13: Will new NHS Intermodal connector miles that meet the Federal intermodal connector designation criteria, outlined in Appendix D to 23 CFR Part 470, be automatically added to the NHS (that becomes effective on October 1, 2012)? [23 USC 103(b)(2)(1)(C) as amended by Section 1104 of MAP-21]

Answer 13: No. To add intermodal connectors to the system, the State will follow procedures outlined in Appendix D of 23 CFR Part 470 to identify connectors to qualifying intermodal terminals. The State will submit a request to (through the FHWA Division Office) FHWA HQ for review and approval.

Strategic Highway Network (STRAHNET)

Question 14: Will new STRAHNET route/connector miles that meet the Federal STRAHNET route designation criteria, outlined in 23 CFR Part 470, be automatically added to the NHS (that becomes effective on October 1, 2012)? [23 USC 103(b)(2)(1)(D) and 23 USC 103(b)(2)(1)(E) as amended by Section 1104 of MAP-21]

Answer 14: No, additional STRAHNET route/connector miles will not be automatically added to the NHS. The State will follow procedures outlined in 23 CFR Part 470 to add STRAHNET routes/connectors. Requests for STRAHNET modifications (including additions/deletions) require coordination among FHWA, the Surface Deployment Distribution Command (Department of Defense), and the impacted State(s).

Functional Classification

Question 15: Will the Division Offices' current authority to approve functional classification changes extend to approving NHS changes?

Answer 15: No, the Division Offices' role in the determination and approval of functional classification will remain the same. The FHWA HQ retains approval authority for NHS changes. After October 1, 2012, all further modifications to the NHS will follow the procedures outlined in 23 CFR 470.113 with approval by the Associate Administrator for Planning, Environment, and Realty (via HEPH-20).

Question 16: Will the request to change functional classification occurring after October 1, 2012 be automatically treated as a request to add to the NHS?

Answer 16: No, typically, the approvals for functional classification changes and NHS changes require two separate approval actions. The Division Office approves the functional classification change and FHWA HQ approves the NHS change. The FHWA HQ reviews a route modification request (with respect to criteria outlined in 23 CFR Part 470) to determine whether the proposed segment "enhances the national transportation characteristics of the NHS." The State should coordinate with the Division Office to submit a concurrent functional classification change and NHS change request. However, Division Office approval of the upgrade to a principal arterial must occur before FHWA HQ can approve an NHS addition.

Question 17: Will the functional classification changes that occur prior to October 1, 2012 but are not reflected in the 2011 HPMS data, be automatically considered a part of the NHS?

Answer 17: Yes, these approved principal arterials will become part of the NHS without an approval action by FHWA. However, the State should coordinate with FHWA HQ (through its Division Office) to identify these additional principal arterials approved after the 2011 HPMS data submission to be included into the NHS. For principal arterial approvals that occurred before October 1, 2012, but are not reflected in the updated NHS (effective October 1, 2012), the State should coordinate with FHWA HQ (through its Division Office) to identify and include these additional principal arterials to the NHS. Any approved changes submitted by the States to the FHWA by September 20, 2012, are reflected in the maps released on October 1, 2012.

Outdoor Advertising and Junkyards

Question 18: How will the new definition of the National Highway System affect a State's responsibility to provide control of outdoor advertising? [23 USC 131 as amended by MAP-21]

Answer 18: MAP-21 Section 1104 results in the addition of road segments to the National Highway System. Because these new segments are now part of the National Highway System, States will be responsible for control of outdoor advertising along these new segments. The penalty for not providing effective control of outdoor advertising remains at 10 percent of the funds that would otherwise be apportioned to the State under section 104.

Question 19: How has MAP-21 changed a State's duty to control junkyards? [23 USC 136 as amended by MAP-21] (updated 5/23/2013)

Answer 19: A State must now control junkyards located along highways on the National Highway System. Section 1404(b) amends section 136 of title 23 to include effective control of junkyards along all highways on the NHS, including the Interstate Highway System. Effective control, as defined by 23 U.S.C. 136(c), means that nonconforming junkyards must be screened by natural objects, plantings, fences, or other appropriate means so that it is not visible from the main travel way of the system or must be removed from sight. The penalty for not providing effective control of junkyards, however, has been reduced by section 1404 from 10 percent to 7% of the funds in section 104(b)(1) through (5).

Interstate System

Question 20: Can segments of congressionally designated future Interstate routes be included in the Interstate System without a connection to the existing Interstate System?

Answer 20: Yes, if a segment of a congressionally designated future Interstate route identified in Section 1105(e)((5)(A) of ISTEA, as amended, meets Interstate design standards and is planned to connect to an existing Interstate System segment by 25 years of the enactment of MAP-21 on October 1, 2012, it can be included on the Interstate System. Request for addition of these routes will follow procedures outlined in 23 CFR Part 470.

Design Standards

Question 21: Do National Highway System (NHS) design standards apply to highways added to the NHS by MAP-21? (added 1/15/2013)

Answer 21: Yes. The design requirements of 23 CFR Part 625 apply to projects on the NHS. Accordingly, the NHS standards adopted by FHWA (currently the 2004 AASHTO Green Book) apply to new and reconstruction projects on the NHS, including NHS routes added by MAP-21. Design standards for resurfacing, restoration, and rehabilitation (3R) projects that have been agreed to by the State DOT and FHWA Division Administrator will apply to 3R projects on these routes.

Question 22: For highways that have been added to the National Highway System (NHS) under MAP-21, what is the effective date that projects are required to comply with the NHS design standards? (added 1/15/2013)

Answer 22: The effective date was October 1, 2012. If the applicable Federal or State environmental finding, determination, or decision (under 23 CFR 771.105 or equivalent State legislation) was completed prior to October 1, 2012, the project will not need to comply with NHS design standards. If a Federal or State environmental review is not required for the project, the project will not need to comply with NHS design standards if the final design was complete prior to October 1, 2012. All other projects must comply with NHS standards or receive approval for design exceptions.

NHS Modifications

Question 23: Can the enhanced NHS be modified? (added 5/23/2013)

Answer 23: Yes. The NHS, as envisioned by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (P.L. 102-240) and designated in the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 (P.L. 104-59), was intended to be a flexible system that can adapt to changes in the mobility and connectivity needs of populations, defense, commerce, and so on. States can request modifications to NHS routes pursuant to 23 CFR 470.113, including those routes that were added by MAP-21.

Question 24: Can the segments added to the NHS by MAP-21 be removed from the NHS but retain their classification as principal arterials? (added 5/23/2013)

Answer 24: Yes. The NHS designation of the principal arterials added by MAP-21 can be removed. However, pursuant to 23 CFR 470.113(b), such a request would need to be submitted by the State with the appropriate justification that the "national transportation characteristics" of the NHS would be preserved. The justification should discuss the reasons for requesting the deletion and the possible effects that deleting the route from the NHS might have on other existing NHS routes that are in close proximity. The FHWA will review such requests on a case-by-case basis.

Question 25: Can a State request that all the highways added to the NHS by MAP-21 be removed from the NHS? (added 5/23/2013)

Answer 25: No. Federal law requires that the principal arterials that were in existence as of October 1, 2012, be part of the NHS. The FHWA would not approve a request to remove all the recently added principal arterials within a State. Any request would have to be based on valid reasons that would not subvert the mandate of Congress. Circumvention or avoidance of Federal requirements that apply to a Federal System road is not a valid justification for its removal. A State's request would need to be consistent with the requirements in 23 U.S.C. 103 and 23 CFR Part 470.

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