||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (November 2012)|
A control city is a city or locality posted on a traffic sign indicating forward destinations on a certain route. These destinations aid motorists using the highway system to reach destinations along the various routes. Such cities appear on signs at highway junctions to indicate where the intersecting road goes, or on mileage signs on longer routes.
The determination of major destinations or control cities is important to the quality of service provided by the freeway. Control cities on freeway guide signs are selected by the States and are contained in the "List of Control Cities for Use in Guide Signs on Interstate Highways," published and available from American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials.
The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) states that control cities should be used:
- At interchanges between freeways (example US-1 in gallery)
- At separation points of overlapping freeway routes (example US-2 in gallery)
- On directional signs on intersecting routes, to guide traffic entering the freeway (example US-3 in gallery)
- On pull-through signs (example US-4 in gallery)
- On the bottom line of post-interchange distance signs (example US-5 in gallery)
||This article may contain excessive, poor, or irrelevant examples. (November 2012)|
The individual states ultimately have the authority to decide which cities can be control cities, but the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials retains the authority to approve the official list and standardizes all control cities used on the Interstate Highway system in the United States. The published standard is not always followed, for a few reasons – major destinations have since appeared that were not on the original list, new roads have been built that provide new routes, or because of state highway departments' hesitancy to sign destinations in other states. Some examples:
- On eastbound Interstate 10 near Palm Springs, California, Caltrans uses the small city of Indio, California, and "other Desert Cities" [sic], though Phoenix, Arizona is the nearest major forward destination. This inspired the title of a play by Jon Robin Baitz, Other Desert Cities.
- Sometimes, the opposite is true. In Washington state, Vancouver, British Columbia (signed "Vancouver B.C." to prevent confusion with Vancouver, Washington, which the same interstate goes through but in the opposite direction) is the control city for northbound Interstate 5 north of Seattle, which is reached via British Columbia Highway 99. Similarly, Montreal is the control city for Interstate 87 north of Albany.
- U.S. Route 35 in West Virginia uses Charleston, WV as a control ciy on "southbound", even though Charleston is 30 miles EAST of its eventual southern terminus of Interstate 64 near Scott Depot. There is even a flyover ramp from Southbound 35 to Eastbound 64. But to be fair US-35 somewhat runs in an east-southeeast/west-northwest angle between the Ohio River and Dayton which somewhat justifies this, as well as Charleston being a more major city closer to the southern terminus.
- Interstate 40 uses Los Angeles as a control city for motorists west of Flagstaff, even though I-40 does not reach Los Angeles, and neither does Interstate 15, which is at its western terminus. But Interstate 15 does pass through some eastern Los Angeles suburbs and intersection roads reach the city.
- Interstate 57 uses Memphis as a control city for southbound motorists, even though the expressway does not reach Memphis or even enter the state of Tennessee; it ends near Sikeston, Missouri, 150 miles (240 km) to the north. The use of Memphis derives from Interstate 57 serving as an alternative to Interstate 55, which passes through the city.
- On Interstate 65, heading north out of Indianapolis, INDOT uses Chicago as the control city though I-65 terminates at Gary, Indiana, 17 miles (30 km) south of Chicago, and does not enter Illinois.
- On Interstate 85 in North Carolina, NCDOT uses Richmond, Virginia as the northbound control city even though I-85 terminates at I-95 in Petersburg, Virginia, 20 miles (30 km) south of Richmond. VDOT uses Petersburg for this.
- Westbound and southbound Interstate 196 west and south of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan has Chicago as a control city even though the southern end of the highway terminates in Michigan on Interstate 94. Eastbound Interstate 196 in Grand Rapids has Lansing as a control city even though the highway does not leave the Grand Rapids metropolitan area but feeds into Interstate 96 to Lansing.
- On Interstate 515 in Las Vegas, the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) uses Phoenix as the control city, though I-515 terminates in southeast suburban Henderson. I-515 runs concurrently with US 93 and US 95 along its entire length; traffic continues into the state of Arizona on non-Interstate-standard alignments of US 93 (with the US 93 portion crossing the Arizona state line over the Mike O'Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, while the US 95 portion splits off just outside Henderson and Boulder City and heads south towards Searchlight and Cal-Nev-Ari, entering the state of California near Needles, where it merges with I-40). US 93 does not reach all the way to Phoenix, its southern terminus coming at a junction with US 60 in the town of Wickenburg, about 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Phoenix; southbound traffic into the Phoenix area continues on US 60 east. This usage of Phoenix as the control city may be in anticipation of I-515 and US 93 being redesignated as parts of a possible future Interstate 11.
- Eastbound Interstate 80 in New Jersey uses New York City as a control city, even though I-80 does not reach New York City or even enter the state of New York; it ends in Teaneck, New Jersey, about 4 miles (6 km) west of the city. (Road to the George Washington Bridge continues as northbound I-95.)
A control city is not always a major city. For instance:
- Interstate 10 heading eastbound in El Paso uses Van Horn, Texas, a small city west of the western terminus of I-20.
- Interstate 10 heading eastbound out of New Orleans uses Slidell, a small city near I-12 and I-59's terminus, even though larger and more prominent cities such as Gulfport, MS or Biloxi, MS, are situated along I-10 less than 100 miles from New Orleans.
- Interstate 10 heading eastbound out of Slidell uses Bay St. Louis, a small city west of Gulfport, Mississippi.
- Interstate 10 heading eastbound out of Tallahassee and westbound out of Jacksonville, as well as Interstate 75 heading northbound out of Ocala and southbound out of Valdosta, uses Lake City, a small city near where the two highways intersect.
- Interstate 12 uses Hammond where it crosses I-55 and Slidell a small city at the highway's terminus at I-10 and I-59's southern terminus.
- Interstate 35 heading south out of the Twin Cities uses Albert Lea, the last town before the Iowa border, and where I-35 intersects with I-90.
- Interstate 40 between Raleigh and Wilmington, North Carolina, uses Benson, the town near which it intersects I-95
- Interstate 55 heading northbound out of LaPlace uses Hammond, where it crosses I-12.
- Interstate 64 heading eastbound out of St. Louis uses Mount Vernon
- Interstate 66 heading westbound out of Washington, D.C. uses Front Royal, a small city near the highway's terminus of Strasburg, Virginia.
- Interstate 70 between Denver and Hays, Kansas uses Limon, a small city in eastern Colorado, because of the several different highways that intersect there. However, a sign at the junction of US 183 and I-70 in Hays now shows Denver as the westbound control city.
- Interstate 70 in Missouri often uses several intermediate towns between the large cities at opposite ends of the state along the highway, Kansas City and St. Louis. Columbia is most commonly listed due to its central location within the state and the presence of the state's flagship university, the University of Missouri.
- Interstate 76 heading westbound out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, uses Valley Forge, a historic but minor locality where I-76 joins the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
- Interstate 77 in North Carolina uses Fort Chiswell, Virginia as a control city north of Statesville. Fort Chiswell is an unincorporated town that was chosen because it is the nearest community to I-77's junction with Interstate 81. Besides, Charleston, West Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina are in opposite directions on Interstate 77 in North Carolina.
- Interstate 90 heading east out of Sioux Falls also uses Albert Lea since it is the next city along the way where I-90 intersects with another interstate (in this case, I-35).
- Interstate 94 heading west out of the Twin Cities uses St. Cloud and then Moorhead, instead of the larger and more well-known neighbor, Fargo, North Dakota.
Occasionally, a closer large city is not a control city because a larger city is located farther along a highway. For example:
- Highway signs in Maryland on Interstate 95 northbound between the Interstate 395 junction in Baltimore and the Delaware border use New York as their control city, even though I-95 directly passes through the closer Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware.
- At the interchange between Interstate 95 and Interstate 85 south of Richmond, the city of Miami, Florida (920 miles away) is indicated as a long-distance control city for I-95 south, and Atlanta, Georgia (500 miles away) is indicated as a long-distance control city for I-85 south, as well as including the next control cities of Rocky Mount, North Carolina and Durham, North Carolina, respectively.
- At the interchange of Interstate 70 and Interstate 81 in Hagerstown, Maryland, the control city for I-81 south is Roanoke, Virginia, over 200 miles (300 km) away, with the control cities of Martinsburg, West Virginia and Winchester, Virginia overlooked.
- On westbound Interstate 94 within 15 miles of the Detroit Metro Airport, Chicago is listed as a control city, however other segments in between list Jackson, MI, Kalamazoo, MI and Benton Harbor, MI as they are closer together whereas Detroit and Chicago are larger cities with mutual guidance for long-distance motorists.
State names, national borders, and landmarks (including bridges and airports) may be used as if control cities. Such may prevent ambiguity and confusion.
- West of its intersection with Interstate 5 in San Diego, California, Interstate 8 leads to "Beaches".
- Interstate 75 heading northbound out of Bay City, Michigan uses the Mackinac Bridge (nearly 200 miles (320 km) away) as a control city because there are no large cities north along the highway.
- Interstate 76 (Pennsylvania Turnpike) westbound in the Pittsburgh area uses "Ohio and West" on overhead signs. I-76 then continues into Ohio as the Ohio Turnpike, where it meets I-80 and leaves the Turnpike while I-80 joins the Turnpike. This means that Youngstown, Akron, Cleveland, and Toledo (all control cities) are appropriate for I-76 westbound. Westbound in Ohio, Cleveland is used as a control city for the Ohio Turnpike, as is Columbus (for Interstate 70).
- Interstate 276 (Pennsylvania Turnpike) eastbound uses New Jersey as a control city.
- Interstate 80 in Illinois uses Iowa as the westbound destination and Indiana as the eastbound destination, even though the Quad Cities could be used for westbound traffic and Gary, Indiana could be used for eastbound traffic.
- Interstate 81 heading north from Syracuse, New York uses Canada as its control city. Interstate 81 is connected by Highway 137 to Highway 401 in Ontario, midway between the major cities of Toronto and Montreal. Conversely, signage to Interstate 81 from 401 indicates Hill Island, Ontario and Bridge to USA instead of Watertown or Syracuse.
- On highway signs in San Francisco, the "control city" for northbound U.S. Route 101 is the Golden Gate Bridge, while one for eastbound Interstate 80 is the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge.
- Interstate 80 westbound in New Jersey uses Delaware Water Gap as a control city.
- On Interstate 294 between the interchanges for Interstate 80 and Interstate 90, "Wisconsin" acts as the control city northbound and "Indiana" acts as the control city southbound. The Tollway allows Interstate access to both all large cities in Wisconsin toward the north and to all large cities in northern and central Indiana, let alone all locations in Ohio and the Lower Peninsula of Michigan that must be reached from Greater Chicago through Indiana.
- Interstate H3 westbound in Hawaii uses Pearl Harbor, a physical feature and major naval base at its western terminus, instead of a city along Interstate H1. (example US-4 in gallery)
Control cities are particularly necessary for highways that do not follow strict linear directions. Ontario's Queen Elizabeth Way, for example, wraps around the western end of Lake Ontario, with segments proceeding both east and west at different points. Compass directions are not used at all in its central sections, and the control cities of Toronto and (for the opposite direction) Hamilton/Niagara Falls/Fort Erie are the only bearings provided.
Each of the 400-series highways uses control cities, but the common Ontario practice is to use smaller, closer urban centres as alternatives to out-of-province cities. For example, on Highway 401, Cornwall displaces Montreal as eastbound control city for most of the St. Lawrence valley. Windsor, Chatham, London, Toronto, Kingston, Cornwall and (briefly) Montréal are control cities while larger centres such as Oshawa and Mississauga are omitted due to their proximity to Toronto.
The Ministère des Transports du Québec typically uses large urban centres as control cities, even if they are far away and even outside the province. For example, signs in Montreal, Quebec, indicate control cities as far as Toronto and Ottawa on major Autoroutes 20 and 40 respectively. New York and Vermont are used as control cities for Autoroutes 15 and 35 respectively.
The New Brunswick Department of Transportation tends to use cities within the province as control cities. The Trans-Canada Highway uses Edmundston, Fredericton, Moncton and Sackville as control cities from north to south. Bordering provinces are used sparingly, and only after they are the only remaining destination on the highway. Route 95, the link between the Trans-Canada Highway and Interstate 95, uses only Houlton, Maine as a control city to the west.
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Unlike in the United States and Canada, roads in Continental Europe are not signed with directional banners (east, west, north, and south), so the direction of the route is indicated by a major city or destination (directly or indirectly) reached by the route (examples FR-1 and DK-1 below). While not called "control cities", the function is the same.
Britain and Ireland
On UK motorways and primary routes, motorists are directed to the next primary destination. The term "control city" is not used. Though directional banners are not used, routes frequently direct use regional destinations (e.g. the South West, North Wales, Scotland) to direct long-distance traffic.
Rest of World
Freeways, Motorways and Tollways in Australia, whilst not using the term 'Control City', operate on much the same system as in the United States and Europe. Directional markers are not used, instead the next large towns or cities which are likely to be the destination, or known waypoints for, motorists are used.
- Within cities major suburbs will usually be used - In the eastern suburbs of Melbourne Chadstone & Dandenong, which are connecting hubs with the national route 1, Princes Highway, are used as route markers. Traveling inbound, depending upon the driver's location in Melbourne's east one of these markers will generally be used along with a marker 'City' referring to the Central Business District. The marker 'City' is only used when within the metropolitan area of a city, outside of the metropolitan area routes traveling towards that city will use the city's full name.
- Outside of cities, major regional centers or capital cities will generally be used as markers.
- The same principle applies to major and secondary surface roads in Australia, with the most major suburb or town, or the road's terminus in either direction being used as the 'control city'.
- In some circumstances a major infrastructure location, most often Airports, will be used as a 'Control' City. In the case of surface roads if they connect to a freeway, motorway or tollway sometimes this connection will be used as a signing point.
- "Control Cities" (PDF). Guide Signs on Interstate Highways. Florida Department of Transportation. Retrieved 2009-03-30.
- "Chapter 2E. Guide Signs—Freeways and Expressways". MUTCD. FHWA. 2008-05-28. Retrieved 2009-03-30.
- Signage for I-276 at Norristown entrance (Highway sign). Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. Unknown parameter
- Signage for I-80 on I-287 northbound (Highway sign). Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey: New Jersey Department of Transportation. Unknown parameter