Proposed features/Highway administrative and physical descriptions

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Highway administrative and physical descriptions
Status: Abandoned (inactive)
Proposed by: Hawke
Tagging: highway:admin, highway:physical=various
Applies to: linear
Definition: A way to distinguish the physical description from an administrative designation of a road
Drafted on:
Proposed on: 2008-01-25


Provide a method to describe the physical road as well as the legal/administrative designation of a road, in more detail than the highway key.


highway:admin is used in the US to describe what organization maintains a road. Other places, .. how do A/B/M/etc roads work?

highway:physical should describe the physical road itself, without regard for any official classification.



Motorway (UK), Interstate (US). This should only be applied to those roads which are designated as motorway (M), interstate (I), autobahn, etc, even though other roads may be built to the same standards.
National highway. A highway which is not a motorway, maintained by the national government. US highways in the US.
Highways maintained by state or provincial government. State highways in US. Provincial highways in Canada. Some countries do not have this level. May correspond with an EU NUTS-2 level.
Highways maintained by counties or parishes. May correspond to an EU LAU-1 level.
All other roads; all roads maintained by a municipality or private entity.

How to tag "A" and "B" roads (UK, Germany(?))? Might need separate classifications for those. Trunk-A roads (UK)?


This is taken from Andrew MacKinnon's proposal, "A new highway tagging scheme" from the mailing list (2007-08-26), and slightly modified.

For all roads, if the road has parking lanes they should not be counted in the width (two_lane, multi_lane, and narrow are particularly affected). If a road is divided by a median, each direction should be considered separately.

a controlled-access highway with at least two lanes in each direction. Should be built to relevant standards (how to tell?) but does not need to be officially designated as such.
Other highway with full, hard shoulders. Approximately equivalent to a single direction of a motorway. value taken from the term "Super two", modified to allow more than two lanes.
A slip road (UK) or ramp (US). Usually one lane. Used only for access to limited-access highways.
A non-controlled access road (arterial road, etc.) with no median in the centre. (if a median were present, each direction would be mapped separately) Centre islands may exist at intersections. May have a third or fifth "suicide lane", dedicated for turning in one or both directions. May be two lanes in one direction and one in the other.
a paved road with two lanes, one in each direction, and no (or very little) shoulder. In the US and UK, these will have a painted line (broken or solid, single or double) in the center. One way roads with two lanes, which do not form part of a motorway or other dual carriageway road, should be tagged two_lane.
A collector road. This tag is rather subjective. It generally indicates a road wider than other minor roads, which may have traffic signals where it meets higher-level roads (while other minor roads do not).
Any other road, whether paved or unpaved, wide enough for two cars to pass, but probably not safely at full speed. In the US or UK, these will not have lines. If it is one way, the road should be wide enough for two cars to fit side-by-side. In urban areas of the US, these are normal residential roads.
Any road, paved or unpaved, not wide enough for two cars to fit side-by-side; in urban areas, these are generally (not exclusively) one-way streets. In rural areas, traffic in both directions is often allowed.
An unsurfaced, or "primitive road" which is navigable without a special vehicle.
A primitive road which is only suitable for vehicles with high ground clearance, and possibly requiring 4 wheel drive.

Decision tree for physical description

Is it fully grade-separated from roads crossing it?

Yes (hqdc)

No (link, super, multi_lane, two_lane, significant, minor, narrow, primitive, 4wd)

Does it connect two grade-separated roads to each other?
Yes (link)
No (super, multi_lane, two_lane, significant, minor, narrow, primitive,4wd)
Is it paved or graded?
Yes (super, multi_lane, two_lane, significant, minor,narrow)
If the road is dual-carriageway or otherwise divided, consider a single carriageway:
Does it have paved (even with gravel), full-width shoulders and a high speed limit (80kph,50mph or faster)?
Yes (super)
No (multi_lane, two_lane, significant, minor, narrow)
Does it have more than two lanes total, not including parking or turning lanes?
Yes (multi_lane)
No (two_lane, significant, minor, narrow)
Would you consider it a highway or a street?
Highway (two_lane)
Street (significant, minor, narrow)
Can two automobiles fit side-by-side?
Yes (significant, minor)
Does it appear to fit the definition of a collector road?
yes (collector)
no (minor)
No (narrow)
No (primitive, 4wd)
Is this road navigable without a high-clearance, possibly 4-wheel drive vehicle?
Yes (primitive)
No (4wd)


No immediate rendering changes are needed. This would however enable some alternate rendering systems.


Please use the discussion page for comments.