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Highway map legend

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For one of my hobbies (I've been a roadgeek since I was a kid), I've been working on a couple GIS projects involving mapping various highways, and getting pretty in depth with the highway types. I've been devising a legend to go with it, and have come up with two options.

An associate of mine suggested I post them on this forum, so here they are.

This mapping style is a melding of several map types. I've combined elements of the American Map series road atlases with elements of the Minnesota, Virginia, and Pennsylvania state highway maps, along with my own twists. Here's the first one I came up with:


After getting some feedback from a roads forum I follow, I made a few tweaks and came up with a second option:


A few additional notes:

While we only have a couple 2-lane Interstates in the U.S. (at least in the Lower-48 or Hawaii), I've included the 2-lane Interstate to reflect cases in other countries where segments of their national freeway network are 2 lanes instead of 4 lanes.

I'm using the standard engineering definitions of Freeway and Expressway here. So Freeway is fully controlled access, while Expressway is limited access (i.e. private access prohibited, but allows at-grade intersections).

Super-2 can refer to either freeway or expressway.

Improved-2 is my own term. An Improved-2 highway has better geometrics than the typical 2-lane state highway, turn lanes at major and intermediate intersections, and paved shoulders, and may have some partial control of access (though private access may still be allowed).

Parkways, as I include them here, refer to limited- or controlled-access parkways. Examples include the George Washington Parkway, the various New York state parkways (Taconic, Robert Moses, Palisades, Bear Mtn, etc etc), and the Natchez Trace.

Local Roads refers to locally/city/county-maintained streets and roads....i.e. roads not on the state highway system.

Thoughts/comments are appreciated.

Dennis McClendon

Dennis McClendon

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Hello to a fellow roadgeek.

Because warm colors tend to come to the foreground and be most prominent, I would make the red/black casing represent Multi-lane Interstate, rather than the much less common Multi-lane Freeway. Indeed, I would not differentiate the two types of freeway except by shield. There's little point in showing the Hollywood Freeway (a US route) completely differently from the Long Beach Freeway (now carrying an Interstate number).

Because it's not uncommon for grade-separated highways to have an occasional at-grade intersection, I would design the separation between the lines of at-grade facilities so they are the same as the ones with casings. In other words, the brown lines of a Multi-lane Parkway should appear to simply lose their casing and median for the short sections where they are not grade-separated. For at-grade facilities, this will effectively narrow both the two lines and the space between them, and that's as it should be. They should recede behind the facilities built to higher standards. You want the visual hierarchy to show the biggest fastest long-distance roads in the foreground, with lesser facilities receding behind.

I would also slightly reduce the line weight of the Multi-lane Undivided Highway and Multi-lane Local Road.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics

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