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United States highway

The United States highway system is a system of federal and state funded roads. As these highways were coordinated and partially funded by the United States Federal Government (as opposed to state and local roads), they are sometimes referred to as "Federal Highways".

Old style Highway markings

Dixie Highway

Jefferson Highway
Early Named Automobile Highway System

The first United States automobile highway system originated in the 1910s with a series of named highways, the major routes being named for American Presidents; for example the Lincoln Highway ran from New York City on the Atlantic coast to San Francisco on the Pacific; the Jefferson Highway[?] from New Orleans north to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. A major exception to the presidential names was the Dixie Highway[?], running from Miami, Florida to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Such obsolete highway names survive only in scattered locations in the United States, mostly on old highway routes that have been bypassed by later larger highways and now are used mostly by local traffic. The old named highways were marked with horizontal bands of color on telephone & telegraph poles and posts beside their routes, sometimes suplimented by letters (eg; a red, a white and a blue stripe with an "L" indicated the Lincoln Highway; two blue stripes with "JH" indicated the Jefferson Highway; two white and one red stripe with "DH" showed the Dixie Highway).

The Current United States Highway System

The current United States Highway system begun in 1924, and the named highways began to be replaced with numbers the following year. Unlike the later Interstate highway system, roads on the United States highway system are not usually controlled-access roads: many are the main streets of the cities and towns they run through. The United States Highways were (and are) state highways, funded with some federal assistance.

On maps and the road, the highway is indicated by a number on a white sign in a shape of a shield.


Marker for US Highway 22

The numbering system consists of a one, two, or three digit number. For routes 1 through 101, odd numbers represent north-south highways and even numbers represent east-west. The numbers increase moving east to west and north to south, which is the reverse of the progression of the interstate highway system. (This contrast was deliberate, to avoid confusing the newer interstate highway numbers with the older U.S. highways.) Route numbers greater than 101, with a few minor exceptions, are spur or secondary routes given a number consisting of a single digit prefixed to the number of the "parent" route; for example, US highway 202 is a secondary route that branches off highway 2.

Some secondary routes are designated by letters instead of numbers, such as 25A or 9W.

The Interstate highway system of limited access highways was begun in the 1950s to supplement this United States highway system, not to replace it.

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