Transportation trivia: What's a freeway vs. a highway?

Transportation trivia: What's a freeway vs. a highway?

July 18, 2016

Aerial view of a roadway

By Caroline Carpenter / ADOT Communications

Freeway or highway: Are the words interchangeable? Is a freeway always a highway?

The quick answer is all freeways are highways, but not all highways are freeways. It may sound like a riddle, but it doesn't have to be confusing.

A freeway is a highway where access to the roadway is controlled. Drivers can only enter a controlled-access highway by ramps. Traffic traveling in opposite directions is usually separated by a median, and vehicles wanting to cross a freeway must use an overpass or underpass. Freeways are usually in an urban setting and have higher speed limits.

You might wonder: What is a highway that isn't classified as a freeway? There will be no exit or entrance ramps on a highway that is not a freeway. Highways will also have cross-traffic, traffic signals and sometimes pedestrian crossings. They can usually be found in rural areas and often have lower speed limits than freeways.

Now that you know the difference, you can impress your friends with a little transportation trivia!