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road, strip of land used for transportation. The history of roads has been related to the centralizing of populations in powerful cities, which the roads have served for military purposes and for trade, the collection of supplies, and tribute. In the Middle East, in N Mesopotamia, scientists have found evidence of a network of roads dating back to perhaps 3000 B.C. In Persia, between 500 and 400 B.C., all the provinces were connected with the capital, Susa, by roads, one of them 1,500 mi (2,400 km) long. The ancient Greeks, cherishing the independence of their city-states and opposing centralization, did relatively little road making.

The Roman roads, however, are famous. In Italy and in every region that the Romans conquered, they built roads so durable that parts of them yet remain serviceable. The Roman roads were generally straight, even over steep grades. The surface, made of large slabs of hard stone, rested on a bed of smaller stones and cement about 3 ft (91 cm) thick.

From the fall of the Roman Empire until the 19th cent., European roads generally were neglected and hard to travel. People usually walked, rode horses, or were carried in sedan chairs. Goods were transported by pack animals. In France, Louis XIV and Napoleon built good roads for military purposes. Elsewhere on the Continent roads were not much improved before the middle of the 19th cent. In Great Britain two Scottish engineers, Thomas Telford and John L. McAdam, were responsible for the development of the macadam road (see pavement). The expansion of the Industrial Revolution brought this and other road improvements to the Continent, although the emphasis was on railroad construction until after the invention of the automobile.

In the Americas the Inca empire was remarkable for its fine roads. In what is now the United States, however, the waterways were the normal mode of travel for Native Americans, and their trails, though numerous, were often simply footpaths. These were used by white settlers and were eventually widened to make wagon trails. The increasing use of stagecoaches led to some improvement, and the turnpike, or toll road, was introduced at the beginning of the 19th cent. Although the planning and building of road arteries, notably the National Road, marked the early years of the century, canals and then railroads took precedence.

The invention and mass production of the automobile made the road became paramount again. Hard-surfaced highways were stretched across the entire land in a relatively few years. The building of roads became a major branch of engineering, and even the most difficult obstacles were surmounted. Roads have helped greatly to equalize and unify large heterogeneous nations. In the United States the Interstate Highway System consists of 42,793 mi (68,869 km) of roads (all but a few miles of which are completed) connecting every major city. Other well-known road networks which serve to unify large areas include Germany's Autobahn, the Trans-Canada Highway, and the Pan-American Highway. An ambitious, 23-nation agreement to link Asia with a network of highways was signed in 2004.


See G. Hindley, A History of Roads (1972); P. H. Wright et al., Highway Engineering (2004); E. Swift, The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways (2011).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an installation for the safe and efficient traffic of vehicles of rated speeds and weights. The development of motor transportation in the late 19th century made it necessary to create efficient roads for vehicle traffic. As long as the speed of the traffic remained low, it was possible to use ordinary roads, with measures for reducing dust and preserving the road surface from rapid wear. The growth of traffic and of the speed and weight of the vehicles called for capital reconstruction of the roads such as widening the driving part, eliminating steep grades, increasing the radius of the curve and using dust-free and durable road surfacing. After World War I roads designed for motor vehicle traffic alone began to be built in all countries. (They were called au-toroutes in France, motorways in Britain, autostradas in Italy, highways in the USA, etc.)

In the USSR there are five technical categories of highways, depending on the relation of the highway to the country’s total transportation system and on the estimated traffic (the average annual number of automobiles that are expected to travel on the highway 20 years later in both directions in one day). The higher the estimated traffic, the higher the category of the road and its technical characteristics, above all the estimated speed (150 km an hour for the first category, 60 km an hour for the fifth category). The estimated speed is the maximum safe speed of a single passenger car. Table 1 presents the technical classification of highways in the USSR.

The main elements of a highway are shown in profile in Figure 1: the distance a between the brows b,conventionally called the earth bed; the driving part c; the shoulders d for short stops; the reserves e,which provide the earth for building the bed; the edges f, the part of the road for pedestrian and bicycle paths, plantings, communication lines, road buildings, transportation installations, and the like. The driving part is covered with a wearing surface. The wearing surface g,built of durable materials, absorbs the shock from the wheels of the automobiles. The wearing surface must be even, have a rough finish, and ensure good adhesion of the wheels of the automobiles. The base h, the carrying layer of the highway dressing, absorbs the estimated weight of the automobiles. An additional layer of the foundation i has various purposes (such as drainage and the prevention of freezing). To make the border of the driving part more visible and to strengthen the edges of the cover, edge-bands j of a different color from the cover are built.

If a highway crosses bodies of water (such as rivers and brooks), ravines, or other roads, additional installations are built, such as bridges, tunnels, viaducts, and traffic intersections.

The rapid growth of motor transportation has increased the passenger and commercial traffic on highways. This increase has necessitated special measures to ensure the safety and regularity of the traffic and to cater to the needs of travellers. Road signs and indicators are installed on the brows of the highway or hung over the driving part, sharp curves are sloped toward the center of the curve, fences are built along the road, the driving part is marked off, lighting is installed, and so on. Automobile terminals and pavilions, filling and technical service stations, motels, camping grounds, and the like are built for passengers and drivers. Truck stations, warehouses, division point facilities, garages, and the like are built for commercial traffic.

One of the most important performance characteristics of the highway is its traffic capacity—that is, the maximum number of automobiles that can travel, without causing a traffic jam, on a given section of the highway in a given span of time, for instance, in one hour. The magnitude of the traffic capacity depends on the width and number of the lanes, the radius of the curves, the gradient, the type of

Figure 1. Cross section profile of a highway

Table 1. Technical classification of USSR highways
 Technical categories of highways
1 Or more 2 Maximum traffic; usually less
Expected daily number of motor vehicles in both directions.........................6,00016,000–3,0003,000–1,0001,000–2002002
Estimated traffic speed (km per hour).......1501201008060
Width of travelling part (m)................2 X 7.51E7.5764.5
Width of lane (m).........................3.753.753.53.04.5
Maximum longitudinal slopes (percent)......3040506070
Maximum admissible weight transmitted by the wheels of the most loaded axle of the vehicle (kilonewtons) ...................100100606060
Maximum admissible weight transmitted by the wheels of the most loaded axle of the vehicle (tons-force) .....................1010666

vehicles, the traffic speed, and the weather. The maximum traffic capacity of a two-lane highway 7–7.5 m wide under favorable road conditions (dry surface, open, straight, and level section without buildings and without crossings at grade; etc.) is about 2,000 passenger cars an hour or about 20,000 a day. Commercial traffic greatly lowers the traffic capacity. If 70–80 percent of the vehicles on a highway are trucks, the traffic capacity of a 7–7.5–m-wide two-lane highway is 8,000–9,000 motor vehicles a day. If the actual traffic on the highway exceeds its traffic capacity, there are traffic jams and the performance indexes of the highway drop sharply.

Table 2. Total length of highways of the world in 1965 (million km)
 Total lengthHard surfaceImproved surfacePercent of total
World as a whole.............18.310.95.0100
Capitalist and developing countries .....
Economically developed ........
Economically underdeveloped3.50.90.319.1
Socialist countries ...........
USSR ....................
Other European countries ...

In the USSR modern machines, continuous production methods, and integrated mechanization are used in the construction of highways. Bulldozers, scrapers, mechanized graders, and the like are widely used in building the earth bed. Some construction components of highways are built at specially equipped construction sites and plants. Automatic mixing installations prepare asphalt and cement-concrete mixes. The building of improved highway surfaces and foundations is completely mechanized.

Highway repair and maintenance services ensure continuous usage, and the State Automobile Inspection Service ensures regularity and safety. The main trends in technological progress in highway construction are improving the transportation and performance qualities of highway surfaces and the length of their service, introducing more advanced technology into construction, and making the fulfillment of construction work less dependent on climate.


Stroitel’stvo avtomobil’nykh dorog,vols. 1–2. Edited by N. N. Ivanov. Moscow, 1963–64.
Avtomobil’nye dorogi. Moscow, 1964.


The construction of highways all over the world was caused by the rapid growth of the number of automobiles. Although there were not more than 25,000 km of operating roads of general use in 1913, the highway network amounted to more than 18 million km in 1965 (see Table 2). Table 3 shows the distribution of highways in different parts of the world in 1965 (without the USSR and the other socialist countries). In 1964 the density of the highway network was 24 km per 100 sq km of inhabited territory in the world as a whole; in the capitalist and developing countries this figure is 30 km (9.7 km in underdeveloped countries alone), and for the socialist countries, 11.0 km (9.6 km in the USSR). The same indexes per 10,000 population are as follows: 56 km for the world as a whole; 72 km for the capitalist and developing countries, including 23 km for the underdeveloped countries; and 24 km for the socialist countries, including 59 km for the USSR.

Major highways of the world

WESTERN EUROPE: London-Paris-Nice-Rome-Palermo; London-Lausanne-Milan-Brindisi; Lisbon-Paris-Stockholm; Lisbon-Bern-Copenhagen-Stockholm-Helsinki; London-Vienna-Budapest-Belgrade-Alexandroupolis-Is-tanbul; Rome-Berlin-Oslo-Stjórdal; Rome-Vienna-Warsaw; London-The Hague-Berlin-Warsaw; (Paris)-Prague-War-saw-(USSR); Trieste-Prague-Szczecin-Hamburg-Berlin-Prague-Budapest-Bucharest-Constanta; Berlin-Wroclaw-Kraków-Przemyśl-(USSR).

ASIA: Bazargan (border with Turkey)-Khoi-Tehran-Meshed-Herat-Kabul-Peshawar-Islamabad-Delhi-Dacca -Kalaw-Phnom Penh-Saigon, and Tehran-Kerman-La-hore-Delhi (through Nepal)-Dacca-Rangoon-Bangkok-Kuala Lampur-Singapore-Djakarta-Denpasar (Bali Island).

Table 3. Length of highways in the capitalist and developing countries in 1965
 Total length (thousand km)%Hard surface (thousand km)%Improved surface (thousand km)%
Europe ..............................3,53522.52,63027.11,57033.9
Africa ...............................1,4008.93153.2851.8
North America ........................6,73042.85,06052.22,50054.0
Latin America ........................1,1507.32602.7901.9
Australia and Oceania .................1,0356.54304.41703.6
Total ..............................15,7351009,7101004,640100

AFRICA: Cairo-Alexandria-Tripoli-Tunis-Algiers-Tangier, Cairo-Luxor-Khartoum, Algeria-Niger; Algeria-Congo, Tangier-Dakar.

NORTH AMERICA: Washington-New York-Albany-Buffalo, Chicago-Omaha-Cheyenne-San Francisco, Chicago-St. Louis-New Orleans (USA); Toronto-Montreal (Canada).

LATIN AMERICA: Nuevo Laredo-Mexico City-Guatemala City-San Salvador-Managua-San José-Rio de Ja-neiro-Sáo Paulo-Montevideo-Buenos Aires-Valparaiso, Caracas-Bogotá-Quito-Lima-La Paz-Buenos Aires.

AUSTRALIA: Melbourne-Sidney-Brisbane, Melbourne-Adelaide-Port Augusta, Geraldton-Perth-Albany.

USSR highways In the USSR, highways are built with consideration of communities, railroads, water and air transportation routes, and pipelines. The following categories of highways are set up according to the national economic significance and the nature of the settlements they serve: all-Union highways provide interrepublic transportation and connect capitals of Union republics with each other and with the major economic centers; they also serve international transportation lines, airports, and health resorts of all-Union significance. Republic highways provide transportation between oblasts and connect republic and oblast centers with each other and with major economic centers of oblasts; they connect with railroad stations and harbors and provide access to all-Union highways. Oblast highways provide transportation between oblasts

Table 4. Highway density in different parts of the world (kilometers)
 Per 10,000 populationPer 100 sq km
 total networkhard surface roadstotal networkhard surface roads
Europe ...................109829370
North America........3192323123
Latin America ........491151
Australia and Oceania ......582247125

and connect oblast centers with cities and raion centers, and also connect important industrial and agricultural centers with republic highways, railroad stations, and harbors. Local highways provide transportation between ra-ions and connect raion centers with each other and with outlying settlements, sovkhozes and kolkhozes. Department highways are under the jurisdiction of individual ministries (such as forestry, oil extraction, and ferrous metallurgy).

Highways that provide long-distance transportation between economically or militarily important regions and centers or that ensure rapid mass traffic are called superhighways.

Highway construction is financed by state capital investments and deductions from profits of motor transportation enterprises; local highways are built with the participation of industrial, agricultural, and other economic enterprises and kolkhozes. There was a great development of highway construction during the prewar five-year plans. In that period old highways were rebuilt and new ones built. The total length of hard-surface roads quadrupled from 1913 to 1940. In the postwar years large-scale work has been done on restoring and repairing highways and on building many roads with improved surfaces and big transit superhighways for regular long-distance commercial and passenger traffic. The length of hard-surface highways trebled from 1940 to 1966 and reached 456,000 km by the end of 1968. In the same period the length of highways with improved surfacing increased more than 20 times to 145,000 km. The major highways are marked with route numbers for the convenience of the drivers and for traffic safety.

MOSCOW-LENINGRAD (719 km; Route 10), the first hard-surface road in Russia. Built in 1722–46 (hard surface constructed 1817–34). Rebuilt in 1953–58. Access road to the Sheremet’evo air terminal and the Zavidovo preserve. Provides rapid traffic to the Sheremet’evo airport without crossings. Passes through Klin, Kalinin (detour), Valdai, Novgorod. Together with the Leningrad-Vyborg highway (200 km) it constitutes a superhighway.

MOSCOW-MINSK-BREST (1,054 km; route 1), transit superhighway connecting the Central Zone of the European USSR, the Byelorussian SSR, and the People’s Republic of Poland. Construction began in 1936 and was completed in 1954. The road passes near Gzhatsk, Viaz’ma, Smolensk, Orsha, Borisov, Baranovichi, and Kobrin.

MOSCOW-KHARKOV-SIMFEROPOL’ (1,395 km; Route 4), highway connecting the Central Zone of the USSR with the Ukraine and the resorts of the Crimea. The Moscow-Kharkov section was built in 1840–60. The road was completely reconstructed in 1946–50. Passes through Serpukhov, Tula, Orel, Kursk, Belgorod, Krasnograd, Novomoskovsk, Zaporozh’e, Melitopol’, and Dzhankoi. From Simferopol’ highways go out to Evpatoriia, Sevastopol’, Yalta, Feodosiia, and Kerch’.

MOSCOW-VORONEZH-ROSTOV-ON-DON (1,065 km; Route 5), highway connecting the central raions with the Northern Caucasus. In the city of Shakhty it joins the Kiev-Kharkov-Rostov-on-Don highway. Some sections were built in the second half of the 19th century. The Kashira-Voronezh section was rebuilt in 1957–61. The road was completed in 1967. Passes through Stupino, Kashira (bridge across Oka River), Efremov, Elets, Boguchar, Millerovo, and Kamensk-Shakhtinskii.

MOSCOW-GORKY-KAZAN (819 km), highway connecting Moscow with the Upper Volga Region. Built in 1839–89. The Moscow-Gorky section was rebuilt during the second and third five-year plans in connection with the construction of the Gorky automobile plant. Radical reconstruction was carried out in 1954–63. The highway passes through Noginsk, Vladimir, Viazniki, and Cheboksary. Access roads go to Volodarsk and Dzherzhinsk. With the construction of the Kazan-Sverdlovsk section, the highway will become part of Route 8. From Vladimir, highways start for Suzdal’ and Ivanovo.

MOSCOW-KUIBYSHEV (1,070 km; Route 7), highway connecting the Central Zone with the Middle Volga Region. Passes through Kolomna, Riazan’, Penza, Syzran’, and Tol’iatti. Rebuilt in 1957–65. Within the next few years, after the completion of the Kuibyshev’-Ufa-Cheliabinsk highway, communication with the Urals region will be provided.

Moscow ring highway (109 km), high-speed superhighway. Built in 1958–62, it ensures distribution of the traffic among the adjoining superhighways. The boundary of Moscow since 1960.

LENINGRAD-KIEV-ODESSA (1,744 km; Route 20), the Baltic-Black Sea transit superhighway. The Leningrad-Kiev section was built in 1838–88 and rebuilt after the Great Patriotic War. The Kiev-Odessa section was built in 1955–60. Passes through Luga, Pskov, Vitebsk, Orsha, Mogilev, Gomel’, Chernigov, Belaia Tserkov’, and Uman’.

LENINGRAD-TALLIN-RIGA-KALININGRAD (1,045 km; Route 21), the chief Baltic highway. Passes through Narva, Piarnu, Elgava, and Shiauliai.

KIEV-KHARKOV-ROSTOV-ON-DON (950 km; Route 13), the largest broad highway of the Ukrainian SSR. Built in 1946–52. Passes through Poltava, Slaviansk, Artemovsk, Shakhty, Novocherkassk.

ROSTOV-ON-DON-NOVOROSSIISK (415 km; Route 18). Built in 1954–59. Exit to the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus. Passes through Krasnodar.

BLACK SEA HIGHWAY (NOVOROSSIISK-BATUMI) (750 km; Route 19). Built in 1887–1910. Restored in 1946–50. Work continues on straightening and broadening the section with the most motor traffic. Access roads to Adler, Abrau-Diurso, Matsesta Station, Lake Ritsa, Pitsunda, and others. At Samtredia, highways start for Tbilisi, Yerevan, and Baku (Routes 15 and 17).

ROSTOV-BESLAN-BAKU (1,332 km; Route 14), the chief highway of the northern Caucasus. Built in 1945–55 as far as Ordzhonikidze, completed in 1956–65. Passes through Tikhoretsk, Armavir, Mineral’nye Vody, Piatigorsk, Nal’chik, and Sumgait. Access roads to Krasnodar, Ordzhonikidze, Groznyi, Makhachkala.

BESLAN-TBILISI-YEREVAN (533 km; Route 16), the shortest route between the northern Caucasus and Transcaucasia. Passes through Ordzhonikidze and Leninakan. The Ordzhonikidze-Tbilisi section (208 km) is called the Georgian Military Road. From Tbilisi, highways start for Baku, Yerevan, and Batumi.

ALMA-ATA-FRUNZE-TASHKENT (812 km). Built in 1957–65. The chief highway of southern Kazakhstan. Passes through Dzhambul and Chimkent.

TASHKENT-TERMEZ (708 km), the long Uzbek section of the road is called the Lenin Road. Built in 1940. In 1968 radical reconstruction was underway with straightening and widening of some sections. Passes through Gulistan, Ian-gier, Dzhizak, Samarkand. Together with the Alma-Ata-Frunze-Tashkent highway, it constitutes Route 36.

FRUNZE-OSH (605 km). Built in 1956–65. The main highway of the Kirghiz SSR, the shortest connection between the northern and southern oblasts of the republic. Passes through Toktogul, Tash-Kumyr, Dzhalal-Abad. On this highway is the largest highway tunnel in the USSR (2.5 km), at an altitude of 3.2 km.

OSH-KHOROG (701 km), the Pamir Road. Together with the Frunze-Osh highway, constitutes Route 37. Built in 1931–34. Makes possible freight hauls to the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast. Passes through the territories of the Kirghiz and Tadzhik SSR’s. Built high in the mountains (some passages are at an altitude of more than 4 km). No traffic in the winter. Reconstruction under way.

BIISK-TASHANTA (626 km), the Chuia Road. Built in 1903–13 as a land transportation route to Mongolia. Rebuilt in 1932–36 and in the postwar period. Used for communication with the Gorno-Altai Autonomous Oblast and for foreign trade hauls. Passes through the valleys of the Katun’ and Chuia rivers. Access road to Gorno-Altaisk. The West Mongolian Road continues the Chuia Road to Mongolia. The Chuia Road is part of the Novosibirsk-Biisk-Tashanta highway with a total length of 1,040 km (Route 34).

ABAKAN-KYZYL (436 km; Route 35)—the Usa Road (called after the Usa River, a tributary of the Enisei). Built in 1911–17 as a cart road. Crosses the Western Saiany. Provides transportation to the Chuvash ASSR. Passes through Minusinsk (railroad station). Access road to Shushenskoe.

Within the next few years the following highways will be built or rebuilt: Moscow-Riga, Moscow-Volgograd, Moscow-Briansk-Kiev, Kuibyshev-Cheliabinsk, Kazan-Izhevsk-Sverdlovsk, Cheliabinsk-Karaganda, Poltava-Kishenev, Tol’iatti-Kuibyshev, and others.

In August 1968 the CPSU Central Committee and the USSR Council of Ministers adopted a resolution on the further development of highway construction in the USSR. The resolution provides for an annual 20 percent increase in the rate of construction and reconstruction of highways. The total length of hard-surface roads is to reach 40,000 km by 1975.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(civil engineering)
A public road where traffic has the right to pass and to which owners of adjacent property have access.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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The Western Express Highway stretches from the suburb of Dahisar to Bandra.
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Besides, it will provide a strategic link between major ring roads and expressways in the country, such as the E Ring Road, F Ring Road, G Ring Road, Doha Expressway, the southern part of Doha Express Highway, Industrial Area Road and Rawdat Al Khail Street.
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