North Dakota/Highway Classification

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General guidelines

These are largely based on my opinion and should be discussed with the ND mapping community prior to being applied to the map. Thus, if you're still seeing this written here, do not use these as active guidelines for adjusting highway classifications in North Dakota!

  • highway=motorway - This should only apply to high-speed, limited-access highways that aren't isolated motorway islands.
    • On US-2, this should exclude the partially-limited-access portions around Minot and Grand Forks Air Force Base.
  • highway=trunk - This should apply to high-speed divided highways, but only the segments that connect major population centers.
    • We may consider broadening the use of this tag to include both high-speed divided highways along with undivided, lower-speed US highways that connect major population centers (e.g. US 52 from Jamestown to Minot).
  • highway=primary - This should be used for any remaining US highways along with the most important state highways.
  • highway=secondary - This should be used for most of the remaining state highways along with unusually important county roads.
    • For example, this should exclude ND-10 since it is just a frontage road for I-94 but include CR-81 south of Grand Forks since it is a major connection from I-29 to South Washington Street.
  • highway=tertiary - This should be used for most county roads.

Population centers

The following is a list of the twenty largest cities in North Dakota, along with their populations as of the 2020 United States census and the major highways that serve them. Some of these are suburbs of other cities on this list, and many likely shouldn't be deemed as "important" cities regardless, but all are listed here for consideration.

City Population Highways
Fargo 125,990
Bismarck 76,622
Grand Forks 59,166
Minot 48,377
West Fargo 38,626
Williston 29,160
Dickinson 25,689
Mandan 24,206
Jamestown 15,849
Wahpeton 8,007
Devils Lake 7,192
Valley City 6,575
Watford City 6,207
Lincoln 4,257
Grafton 4,170
Horace 3,085
Beulah 3,058
New Town 2,764
Rugby 2,509
Casselton 2,479

Next is a very incomplete collection of notable "nearby" cities to North Dakota and their populations, along with a distance along a route from a sensible ND terminus (e.g. Fargo to Minneapolis rather than Grand Forks to Minneapolis or Wahpeton to Minneapolis).

City Population Distance (mi) ND Terminus Reach Via
Winnipeg, MB 705,244 67
Minneapolis, MN 429,954 232
Regina, SK 215,106 150
Sioux Falls, SD 192,517 175
Billings, MT 117,116 256
Brandon, MB 48,859 62
Aberdeen, SD 28,180 34
Fergus Falls, MN 13,794 25
Spearfish, SD 11,756 111

Finally, to get an idea for how important each border crossing is at the US-Canada border, I've collected some statistics for the various ports of entry (BTS public domain data), colored with proposed classifications based on these statistics (red for trunk, green for primary, yellow for secondary, and blue for tertiary):

Ports of entry in North Dakota (data from July 2019)
Highway Port Name Port Code Personal Vehicles Personal Vehicle Passengers Trucks Buses Bus Passengers
US 85 Fortuna 3417 1,842 4,056 411
ND 42 Ambrose 3410 156 296
ND 40 Noonan 3420 2,845 5,127 332
US 52 Portal 3403 9,382 21,716 6,790 8 329
ND 8 Northgate 3406 1,483 3,182 1,107
ND 28 Sherwood 3414 1,603 3,055 517
ND 256 Antler 3413 761 1,597 249
US 83 Westhope 3419 1,059 2,293 671
ND 14 Carbury 3421 1,335 2,700 184
US 281 Dunseith 3422 8,967 20,882 2,197 7 225
ND 30 Saint John 3405 1,467 2,988 105 2 26
ND 4 Hansboro 3415 697 1,448 18
ND 20 Sarles 3409 362 736 30 7 46
CR-13 Hannah 3408 101 162 4
ND 1 Maida 3416 947 2,063 179
ND 32 Walhalla 3407 3,801 7,839 1,124
ND 18 Neche 3404 3,719 6,738 841
I 29 Pembina 3401 29,266 72,550 18,090 60 1,456

Inventory and proposals

In all tables below, a city name in bold as a terminus denotes that the highway classification reaches its terminus at the state border.


Current Status

North Dakota's motorways are primarily limited to I-29 and I-94, which are limited-access freeways for their entire lengths across the state. These should need no attention.

Fully-connected motorway system
Highway S/W Terminus N/E Terminus Length (mi)
Hankinson Pembina 218
Beach Fargo 352

There is, however, one small abnormality in Bismarck, with the very short existence of I-194 along with ND-810's brief motorway status. Both of these highways serve to connect I-94 to the east end of Mandan and into the downtown area in Bismarck, and should arguably be left as motorways since they constitute a completely limited-access, high-speed highway from I-94 to the Bismarck side of the Missouri River.

Partially-connected motorway system
Highway S/W Terminus N/E Terminus Length (mi)
Mandan Mandan 1
Mandan Bismarck 2


Nothing really changes.

Proposed motorway network
Highway S/W Terminus City N/E Terminus City S/W Terminus Milepost N/E Terminus Milepost Length (mi) Justification/Comments
I 29 Hankinson Pembina 0.000 217.517 217.517 Limited-access, high-speed freeway the entire length of the state except for the Pembina port of entry, where it should arguably be tagged as a trunk highway to offer consistency with the Manitoba side.
I 94 Beach Fargo 0.000 352.454 352.454 With no exceptions, I 94 is a limited-access, high-speed freeway across North Dakota.
I 194 Mandan Mandan 0.000 1.072 1.072 Freeway connection between I 94 and ND 810.
ND 810 Mandan Bismarck 0.000 2.154 2.154 Acts as a freeway continuation of I 194 and connects Mandan to the southern business district of Bismarck.

Trunk highways

Current Status

Currently, the only fully-connected trunk highways in North Dakota are high-speed divided highways that connect Minot to both Bismark and Grand Forks.

Fully-connected trunk highway system
Highway S/W Terminus N/E Terminus Length (mi)
Minot Grand Forks 212
Bismarck Minot 110

US-2 continues toward Williston and then connects to US-85, which continues to Watford City where the high-speed divided highway downgrades to a normal highway. However, neither connect to a broader motorway or trunk highway system to the west, north, or south. Futhermore, ND-13 connects I-29 to Wahpeton as a high-speed divided highway, but does not connect to any trunk highway in Minnesota.

Partially-connected trunk highway system
Highway S/W Terminus N/E Terminus Length (mi)
Williston Minot 131
Watford City Williston 56
Mooreton Wahpeton 11


As the current interpretation of "trunk highway" in North Dakota is effectively high-speed divided highway, my proposed trunk highway network below is largely an expansion of the current network of trunk highways (with the exception of a few downgrades). These would also require changes to be made in both Montana, South Dakota, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba in order to offer consistency across the state borders, which isn't necessarily out of the question but would require broader collaboration.

Proposed trunk highway network
Highway S/W Terminus City N/E Terminus City S/W Terminus Milepost N/E Terminus Milepost Length (mi) Justification/Comments
I 29 Pembina Pembina 217.517 217.517 0.000 Right at the port of entry, I 29 should be tagged as a trunk since it is no longer a high-speed freeway (due to there being a port of entry and at-grade intersections) and because the highway it connects to in Manitoba is a trunk highway.
US 2 Round Prairie Grand Forks 0.000 358.090 358.090 US 2 is arguably a pretty important roadway in the northern US as it provides a northern alternative to I 90 and I 94 from Saint Ignace, MI to Spokane, WA. Furthermore, throughout North Dakota, US 2 traverses all of the state's northern tier of significant population centers (i.e. Grand Forks, Devils Lake, Minot, and Williston).
US 10 West Fargo Fargo 932.625 940.668 8.043 Continues as US 10 in Minnesota, which is (currently) a trunk highway. Furthermore, it is a major street in Fargo.
US 52 Portal Burlington 0.000 82.696 82.696 This portion of US 52 serves as a connection between Minot and Regina, SK.
US 52 Minot Carrington 97.052 222.719 125.667 This is perhaps a little less worthy of being a trunk route, but it does offer a connection from Fargo and Jamestown to Minot via US 281.
US 83 South Emmons Sterling 0.000 65.934 65.934 Connects cities in central South Dakota (such as Pierre, SD) to central North Dakota, including Bismarck.
US 83 Bismarck Minot 88.998 198.581 109.583 On this segment, US 83 serves as a major connector between Bismarck and Minot, both of which are major population centers in North Dakota, using a high-speed divided highway.
US 85 Ladd Williston 0.000 196.705 196.705 Connects cities in western South Dakota to the Medora area (tourism) and the Watford City/Williston area.
US 281 Ellendale Leeds 0.000 175.184 175.184 Connects Aberdeen, SD to Jamestown and to US 2.
US 281 Dunseith Dunseith 253.208 267.190 13.982 Provides a connection to the Canadian border and up to Brandon, MB.
ND 3 Rugby Dunseith 201.880 233.528 31.648 This connects US 2 at Rugby to US 281, eventually connecting to the Canadian border and up to Brandon, MB.
ND 13 Mooreton Wahpeton 380.194 390.820 10.626 This connects I 29 to Wahpeton as a high-speed expressway, but it's unclear if this should connect to Fergus Falls, MN via MN 210 (is I 94 too close for another trunk in a rural area?).
ND 20 Devils Lake Devils Lake 97.709 102.654 4.945 This, in junction with the ND 57 segment from US 281 to the casino, connects US 281 to Devils Lake.
ND 57 Lallie Devils Lake 0.000 13.277 13.277 This, in junction with the ND 20 segment from the casino to Devils Lake proper, connects US 281 to Devils Lake.

Primary highways

As of right now, North Dakota's primary highway system on the map generally consists of two-lane US highways and some of the more important state highways. For the sake of brevity, the list of current highways will not be included here.


This proposal is currently largely based on the functional classes given to North Dakota's highways as per the NDDOT's traffic information map (largely selecting "principal arterial" segments that aren't being assigned to our new trunk highway system). Note: This list is incomplete.

Proposed primary highway network
Highway S/W Terminus City N/E Terminus City S/W Terminus Milepost N/E Terminus Milepost Length (mi) Justification/Comments
ND 200 Grassy Butte Coalharbor 75.083 188.892 113.809 West of US-83, ND-200 provides an important connection from central ND to western ND, serving multiple cities of modest population along the way (e.g. Hazen, Beulah, Killdeer). This segment includes all of ND-200 between US-85 and US-83.
ND 200 Underwood Hillsboro 192.873 395.560 202.687 East of US-83, ND-200 provides an important connection from central ND to eastern ND, serving multiple cities of modest population along the way (e.g. McClusky, Carrington, Cooperstown, Mayville). This particular segment includes all of ND-200 between US-83 and I-29, but not the remainder of ND-200 between I-29 and the MN border.
ND 200 Hillsboro Halstad (MN) 406.526 415.778 9.252 Connects I-29 near Hillsboro to MN-200 near Halstad. This should be discussed with Minnesota mappers.
ND 200 ALT Hazen Washburn 900.000 925.654 25.654 Provides an alternate connection between ND-200 near Hazen to US-83, serving the cities of Stanton and Washburn.
ND 200 ALT Hillsboro Hillsboro 959.367 959.790 0.423 Connects I-29 to ND-200 (which is also a proposed primary) near Hillsboro.


I've found a variety of useful resources for this project:

  • FHWA NHS North Dakota Map: May be useful for classification consideration.
  • Manitoba Provincial Highways Functional Classification Map: Useful for border classification disputes.
  • MDT Highway Functional Classification - Similar to the NDDOT classification map, but for Montana (for considering border highway disputes). Doesn't exactly line up with the North Dakota system.
  • MnDOT Functional Classification - Similar to the NDDOT classification map, but for Minnesota (for considering border highway disputes). Doesn't exactly line up with the North Dakota system.
  • NDDOT Highway Performance Classification System - The NDDOT classifies the state's highways on a five-level system. This is a useful resource (especially since it was recently updated for 2021), but since we have to restrict the majority of the state's highways down to a four-level system (since the tertiary tag arguably belongs to county roads), there are some differences:
    • Interstate - consists only of I-29 and I-94 and is an exact match to the motorway tag for North Dakota.
    • Interregional - roughly translates to the trunk highway tag, but is a bit more inclusive as it contains US highways that connect to minor cities in South Dakota and Montana.
    • State Corridor - roughly corresponds to the primary tag, but may lead to inconsistencies across the state borders.
    • District Corridor - roughly corresponds to the secondary tag
    • District Collector - roughly corresponds to the secondary tag, but are less important roads.
  • NDDOT Route and Mileage Map - Map of all of North Dakota's state-operated highways.
  • NDDOT Traffic Information Map (interactive) - Lots of useful stuff here, including performance classifications, functional classification, speed limits, traffic counts, and more.
  • Saskatchewan Functional Classification of Provincial Highways Map - An old map (and not a secure link), but may be useful for border classification disputes.
  • SDDOT Highway Classification - Similar to the NDDOT classification map, but for South Dakota (for considering border highway disputes). Doesn't exactly line up with the North Dakota system.

Neighboring projects

For North Dakota's three neighboring states:

  • Minnesota - Initial set of roads to reclassify agreed upon.
  • Montana - No known project.
  • South Dakota - Draft.

North Dakota's neighboring Canadian provinces are not part of the United States reclassification project, but there should be some consideration about the classification of highways that cross the northern border into Manitoba or Saskatchewan. There are efforts in Canada to update road classification to agree with changes here in the United States.