A highway shield or route marker is a sign denoting the route number of a highway, usually in the form of a symbolic shape with the route number enclosed. As the focus of the sign, the route number is usually the sign's largest element, with other items on the sign rendered in smaller sizes or contrasting colors. Highway shields are used by travellers, commuters, and all levels of government for identifying, navigating, and organising routes within a county, state, province, or country. Simplified highway shields often appear on maps.
There are several distinct uses for the highway shield:
- Junction signs inform travelers that they are approaching an intersection with a numbered highway.
- Guide signs inform travelers which way to go at intersections, usually with an arrow pointing the way. These include:
- Directional assemblies, which combine highway shields with separate cardinal direction signs and arrow signs on the same post, and
- Direction, position, or indication signs, which include highway shields as part of the sign legend.
- Reassurance markers are used after major junctions and periodically in between to confirm the route and direction.
- Trailblazer assemblies are posted on other roadways to "blaze the trail" to the highway in question, usually with a "TO" banner plate above the shield
- Some jurisdictions place highway shields on highway location markers (kilometre or mile markers).
Highway shields by country
Australia has maintained distinctly different trends pertaining to Highway shields in the past and will continue in this vein somewhat, despite the conversion to alpha-numeric routes and shields. Alpha-numeric route numbering has been in use in Tasmania since the 1970s. However, from 1996 states on the mainland began conversion to the alpha-numeric system. The state of Victoria was the first to implement the policy. Prior to this conversion and concurrently, Federal Highway (gold-on-green squared-off bullet), National Highway (black-on-white squared-off bullet), State Highway (blue bullet) and Tourist Route (white-on-brown rounded pentagon) shields existed. In Victoria Freeway shields were used (white-on-green with 'F' prefix) until the late 1980s, while during the 1990s Queensland and New South Wales implemented a hexagonal blue-on-white Metroad system of urban arterial routes. With the opening of the Western Ring Road (now M80); that road used a shield quite similar to the U.S. Interstate shield, albeit with 'Ring Road' written instead of 'Interstate' and with 2 peaks, rather than 3. To further complicate matters, with the introduction of the alpha-numeric system, roads that are Federally funded (or Federal Highways) have a squared-off bullet encompassing the alpha-numeric designation. Freeways and dual-carriageway roads often use an 'M' prefix, particularly in Victoria. In addition, trapezoidal signs are placed every 5 km on major regional highways and freeways indicating the distance to the post office of the next city or major town on the route. These signs usually only have the first letter of the destination; two or three letters are used if there is ambiguity between nearby towns or when the place name consists of two words.
Each province dictates the type of shields used as their highway system is a provincial responsibility.
Ontario highways shields vary in shape and colour. The general format is a black letter/numbers on white background.
For major or 400 series highway use a white bullet with a crown on top. These are referred to as King's Highway markers, but the wording has been removed since the 1990s and know just referred to as 400-series highway markers.
Secondary and local or county roads use an isosceles trapezoid as markers. Background colour is usually white, but they can be green. Tertiary road signs are rectangular in shape. Text is black or white and will indicate the county name.
Ontario Highway 407 is the only 400-series highway not to have a standard shield. The rectangular signs has generic 407 and ETR markers.
The Hong Kong Strategic Route and Exit Number System states that the standard shield should consist of a yellow, bullet-shaped shield with the route number in black color. It is used on all numbered routes in Hong Kong.
According to the Manual on Traffic Control Devices Standard Traffic Signs by Malaysian Public Works Department, a standard Malaysian highway shield consists of a yellow hexagon shield with black border line which resembles the Public Works Department's logo itself. The highway shield standard is used for all expressways, federal and state roads in Malaysia, which can be distinguished through the numbering scheme used (please refer to the Road signs in Malaysia article for details).
New Zealand shields are similar to the bullet-shaped markers used in Hong Kong, but are red rather than yellow.
The United States' Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) gives standard designs for highways in the Interstate Highway System and U.S. Route system. The Interstate shield is the only trademarked highway marker in use in the United States, and the U.S. Route shield was inspired by the Great Seal of the United States. The MUTCD also provides default designs for state highways (the circular highway shield) and county highways (a blue pentagon with yellow text). However, states are free to use any design for their numbered routes; as of 2007[update] only five states (Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, and New Jersey) use the default shield on their primary systems, with all others using a custom design. Oklahoma used the default until 2008, but changed to a state outline—however, many state routes still have the old default markers. Vermont uses the default for town-maintained sections of state highways, but has a different design for state-maintained sections. There are several additional designs used in the other states and territories. State outlines are used for primary numbered routes in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, and Oklahoma, and for secondary numbered routes in Texas. Tennessee and South Carolina incorporate state outlines into their shields as well. Many other designs are other geometric shapes (like squares and diamonds), or a design representing the state (like Pennsylvania's keystone design, Utah's beehive, Kansas' sunflower and New Hampshire's Old Man in the Mountain). Washington uses a silhoutte of George Washington's bust. New Mexico uses the default circle but adds a Zia sun symbol inside the circle around the number. Every state but California uses a square or rectangular sign for its state highways. Some U.S. counties also have unique shield designs, though most use the MUTCD default.
Alternatives to shields
Many countries worldwide, such as the United Kingdom and France, do not use shields, instead relying on text representations of highway numbers. Road numbers (the term "highway" is not in general use in the UK) are prefixed by a letter indicating the type of road, for example M1, A1, B123 in the UK; A1, N1, D1 in France. These are sometimes highlighted with a different background color, depending on the class of highway and the context of the sign. The Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals specifies that "road identification signs" consist of the route number framed in a rectangle, a shield, or the relevant state's route classification symbol (if one exists). The extent to which such signs are used varies between countries.
- Staff. "Section 2D.11". Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Federal Highway Administration.
- "CONVENTION ON ROAD SIGNS AND SIGNALS" (PDF). United Nations. pp. Art.17; p.14. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
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