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Public-images-osm logo.svg highway = tertiary
A road linking small settlements, or the local centres of a large town or city. Show/edit corresponding data item.
Rendering in OSM Carto
Rendering-highway tertiary 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 (except multipolygon relations)


Useful combination
Status: approvedPage for proposal

The highway=tertiary tag is used for roads connecting smaller settlements, and within large settlements for roads connecting local centres. In terms of the transportation network, OpenStreetMap "tertiary" roads commonly also connect minor streets to more major roads.

Using this tag

Outside urban areas, tertiary roads are those with low to moderate traffic which link smaller settlements such as villages or hamlets. For quieter linking roads, consider using highway=unclassified instead. For busier through routes, use highway=secondary or greater instead, although note that outside heavily developed areas there may be no busier sort of road than this.

Within larger urban settlements such as large towns or cities, tertiary roads link local centres of activity such as shops, schools, or suburbs. Use only for roads with low to moderate traffic. For the quietest sort of linking, non-residential road consider using highway=unclassified instead. For busier through routes and main roads use highway=secondary or greater.

Tertiary roads also serve to move traffic away from narrower or quieter streets (represented by highway=residential or highway=unclassified) and onto wider arterial routes (highway=secondary or greater) more suited for heavier traffic. In a planned hierarchy they may be referred to as collector, or distributor roads[1], although this tag is useful for mapping any road network, whether planned or emergent. Use it for roads that either serve at this intermediate level or simply those that form a more developed or well-used link in the hierarchy than the most minor sort of street or lane if there's not much planning or variation in the area you're mapping.

How to map

Map a tertiary road as you would any other highway=*: draw a simple way way along your GPS trace or the centreline of the road if tracing satellite imagery, and tag it with highway=tertiary.

Tags used in combination

  • name=name The name of the highway, for example "Skipton Road"
  • ref=reference code The reference number of the road, for example "R 372" or "C452"
  • loc_name=local name The unofficial or local name for a road
  • old_name=* - Historical/old name, still in some use.
  • oneway=yes
  • maxspeed=number Maximum legal speed limit, e.g. "45" (in metric countries), or "30 mph"
  • maxweight=number The weight limit in tonnes, for example "5.5"
  • cycleway=* - Cycle lanes or tracks provided within the carriageway or next
  • sidewalk=* - Indicates the presence or absence of a sidewalk (pavement/footway).
  • surface=* - A description of the road's surface, e.g. "unpaved"
  • lit=yes - when the highway is lit
  • width=number or est_width=number Width of the road in metres, e.g. "4.5"
  • lanes=number The total number of car-sized lanes available on the road, regardless of direction.
  • lane_markings=* - Specifies if a highway has painted markings to indicate the position of the lanes
  • winter_service=* – if winter service is provided
  • embedded_rails=tram - tram traffic on the roadway

International equivalence

Country Description more
Australia The next-most important roads below secondary. Australian Tagging Guidelines/Roads
China(Mainland) Country road, or city branch road. (乡道或城市支路)
Greece Unclassified roads that connect towns, villages and points of interest to each other and classified roads. WikiProject Greece § Road Network
El Salvador Roads whose traffic intensity is between one hundred and five hundred average vehicles per day, have six-meter platforms and are coated with selected local materials and a minimum span of six meters, fifty centimetres on bridges.[2]
Portugal Attributed to Municipal Ways (with official ref=CM *) Maybe also used on roads without official reference, but which have lanes separated by a central line. Portugal's highways standardization
Spain Tertiary highways in Spain correspond to the third level autonomous highways (Road signs S-450). These are identified by the acronym XX-??? in a yellow colored road sign. The letters XX identify the autonomous community they belong to and the ??? correspond to a given numeric value. E. g.: CA-408

The acronym and color may vary dependent on the autoomous community's standards.[3]

UK There is a corresponding official alphabetic classification matching OSM's "tertiary" tag fairly well: 'C' roads. Note that this official designation is rarely seen on signs[4]. For the purposes of mapping, it's normally best to tag distributor roads according to their relative importance in the road hierarchy, as described above.

One rule of thumb for UK roads is that highway=tertiary works well for roads wider than 4 metres (13') in width, and for faster or wider minor roads that aren't 'A' or 'B' roads. In the UK, they tend to have dashed lines down the middle, whereas unclassified roads don't.

Always consider the road in its context too. Where it makes sense to do so, favour keeping the classification continuous on the map over strict adherence to physical criteria.

Roads in the United Kingdom
United States Since most towns and villages are connected primarily by state roads and US roads, tertiary roads usually refer to the less busy county roads, and main connector roads through neighborhoods. It also can refer to roads without a ref=* that connect towns, ind addition to the criteria listed above.
Venezuela Main roads or streets that move a moderate amount of population, which is obliged to pass through it to connect with others higher-priority roads.


  1. The UK Government Planning Portal Glossary defines these as "[r]oads that distribute traffic and bus services within the main residential, commercial and industrial built-up areas".
  2. http://www.mop.gob.sv/archivo/leydecarreteras/legislacion/LeyDeCarreterasYCaminosVecinales.pdf
  3. Ver las diferentes redes autonómicas de carreteras en España.
  4. The 'C' road classification is rarely publicized and frequently only used by local authorities, for maintenance and planning purposes. In England, responsibility for designating 'C' roads is usually vested in the county councils, each of which decides upon its own numbering system. A 'C' road crossing a county boundary will probably undergo a number change and may cease to be a 'C' road altogether. For more information, see Chris's British Road Directory: The Great C-Road Hunt

See also