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Public-images-osm logo.svg highway = primary
A highway linking large towns. Show/edit corresponding data item.
Rendering in OSM Carto
Rendering-highway primary carto.png
Group: Highways
Used on these elements
should not be used on nodesmay be used on waysshould not be used on areasshould not be used on relations
Useful combination
Status: de facto

A major highway linking large towns.

How to map

To map a simple primary highway you can just draw a line for it. Select all ways which belong to the highway and tag them with highway=primary. Use oneway=yes when it is not possible to drive in both directions on the highway. Make sure the way points in the same direction as the oneway goes, otherwise reverse the direction or use oneway=-1.

To attach more information for the highway you should add further keys.

  • name=Name of the highway
  • maxspeed=Number indicates the maximum speed which is allowed
  • minspeed=Number indicates the minimum speed which needs to be reached to use the highway
  • ref=reference name for example A 1, E 22
  • winter_service=* – if winter service is provided

Special situations

In the case you do not have a normal highway you should take a look on these sites:

  • bridge=yes - If the highway goes over a street or waterway.
  • tunnel=yes - If the highway goes below a street or waterway.

Road quality

In developed countries normally with 2 lanes or more. In areas with worse infrastructure road quality may be far worse and may include even unpaved roads. The traffic for both directions is usually not separated by a central barrier.

Who can use it

The traffic that can use a highway=primary will be most traffic, including regular motorised and non-motorised traffic, but subject to local laws and what exactly is tagged as highway=primary various limitations and exceptions may apply.

International equivalence

Country Description more
China(Mainland) Provincial Highway / Urban arterial road (省道或城市主干路)
Greece 2nd-tier National Roads WikiProject Greece § Road Network
Italy Strada Statale (SS) or Strada Regionale (SR) The "SSs" are mostly primary. You should also indicate the name of the highway, if it has one, example:

"SRs" can be tagged as primary as well, if they have a relevant role in linking two major cities.

In general the "highway=" tag is not representing the administrative class but the importance of the connection.

By default this kind of highway is rendered:

  • with a label carrying the "ref" field at lower zoom levels;
  • with the name of the highway at higher zoom levels.
New Zealand State Highways and strategic local roads All State Highways which do not meet the criteria for highway=trunk. Generally two lanes undivided with limited passing lanes and occasionally one-lane bridges.

Strategic local roads are generally the most important roads that are not State Highways. They may be multi-lane divided, or connect major airports, seaports or isolated areas of a city. Examples include South Eastern Highway and Manuaku Road in Auckland, Wairere Drive in Hamilton, and the "Four Avenues" in Christchurch.

Portugal National Roads (with ref=EN *) and important urban avenues with two lanes in each direction. National Roads which are not officially declassified. If it's a declassified EN, it may remain a primary if it is of first order (ex: EN 109). In urban centres, important avenues and arteries with two lanes on each way and a physical separator are also primary.
Switzerland Hauptstrasse There are two kind of "Hauptstrassen" in Switzerland:
Example of a signpost for a numbered "Hauptstrasse"
Use multiple numbers separated by a semicolon (;) if a segment is used by more than one numbered "Hauptstrasse". Example: ref=6;12
Example of a signpost for a normal primary highway

In contrast to other routes, for example cycling or hiking routes, we do not use relations to model numbered "Hauptstrassen" in Switzerland, use ref=number as described above.

United States Primary highway or arterial road. U.S. Highways are mostly primary.

Some State Roads are also primary, the criterion being either connecting large towns/cities, or being a major road in an urban area.

By default this kind of highway is rendered:

  • with a label carrying the "ref" field at lower zoom levels;
  • with the name of the highway at higher zoom levels.
Brazil Via arterial urbana (urban arterial way), estrada estadual (state road), >50-60 km/h
Philippines Other national roads that is used as a city/ arterial road rather than an intercity road, or a connector, if it only feeds secondary/tertiary roads. Provincial roads linking municipalities with a major highway. Roads linking a city/municipal center (poblacion) with a major national highway. National roads usually fall as trunk highways, as they carry most intercity traffic, but some national roads should be tagged primary if they are usually roads serving local traffic in a city/rural area or a connector between two trunk highways, when it feeds roads tagged as secondary or tertiary.
Netherlands Mainly "N-ways" below 400, often called a "provincial way" See NL:The_Netherlands_roads_tagging
Venezuela Regional roads network that connect the most important cities and towns of each State.
Ireland National Secondary Roads that connect towns to each other. Has a number between 51 and 99 with an N prefix. Example: N52