Highways in Australia
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Highways in Australia are generally high capacity roads managed by state and territory government agencies, though Australia's federal government contributes funding for important links between capital cities and major regional centres. Prior to European settlement, the earliest needs for trade and travel were met by narrow bush tracks, used by tribes of Indigenous Australian. The formal construction of roads began in 1788, after the founding of the colony of New South Wales, and a network of three major roads across the colony emerged by the 1820s. Similar road networks were established in the other colonies of Australia. Road construction programs in the early 19th century were generally underfunded, as they were dependent on government budgets, loans, and tolls; while there was a huge increase in road usage, due to the Australian gold rushes. Local government authorities, often known as Road Boards, were therefore established to be primarily responsible for funding and undertaking road construction and maintenance. The early 1900s saw both the increasingly widespread use of motorised transportation, and the creation of state road authorities in each state, between 1913 and 1926. These authorities managed each state's road network, with the main arterial roads controlled and maintained by the state, and other roads remaining the responsibility of local governments. The federal government became involved in road funding in the 1920s, distributing funding to the states. The depression of the 1930s slowed the funding and development of the major road network until the onset on World War II. Supply roads leading to the north of the country were considered vital, resulting in the construction of Barkly, Stuart, and Eyre highways.
The decades following the war saw substantial improvements to the network, with freeways established in cities, many major highways sealed, development of roads in northern Queensland and Western Australia under the Beef Cattle Roads Grants Acts, and interstate routes between Sydney and Melbourne upgraded. In 1974, the federal government assumed responsibility for funding the nations most important road links, between state and territory capitals cities, which were declared National Highways. Some sections of the 16,000-kilometre-long (9,900 mi) National Highway system were no more than dirt tracks, while others were four lane dual carriageways. The network was gradually improved, and by 1989, all gravel road sections had been sealed. In the following decades, the National Highway system was amended through legislation, and was eventually superseded in 2005 by the broader National Land Transport Network, which included connections to major commercial centres, and intermodal freight transport facilities.
The first route marking system was introduced in the 1950s by the Conference of State Road Authorities, which later became the National Association of Australia State Road Authorities (NAASRA) and then Austroads. National Routes were assigned to significant interstate routes "which, both now and in the future, comprise the more important arteries of road communications throughout Australia in all its aspects". East-west routes were planned to have even numbers, increasing from south to north, while north-south routes would have odd numbers, with numbers increasing from east to west. National Route 1 would be an exception, as a "circumferential route along the coastline of Australia". A state route marking systems was designed to supplement the national system, for inter-regional and urban routes within states. Each state could choose their own numbering scheme, as long as National Route and State Route numbers weren't duplicated in the same state, or nearby routes in another state. When the National Highway system was introduced, National Routes along it became National Highway routes with the same numbers, but with distinctive green and gold route markers. During the 1990s, planning began for a new alphanumeric route system. Alphanumeric routes have been introduced in most states and territories in Australia, partially or completely replacing the previous systems.
- 1 History
- 2 Route numbering systems
- 3 Federally funded highways
- 4 State listing
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
The earliest needs for trade and travel were met by narrow bush tracks, used by tribes of Indigenous Australian prior to European settlement. The formal construction of roads began in 1788, after the founding of the colony of New South Wales. These roads were little more than cleared paths, constructed without grading, drainage systems, and road surfaces. There was no system wide planning for roads, with the Surveyor-General's 1788 proposed town plan dismissed as being too ostentatious; however, the arrival of Governor Macquarie in 1810 lead to a planned system for roads and bridges, prior to actual settlement of areas, financed from government funds, public subscription, and tolls. By the end of his term in 1822 the colony had a network of three major roads, with the Great Western Road as the most important link, traversing the Blue Mountains from Sydney to Bathurst. Similar road networks were established in the other colonies of Australia.
Road construction programs in the early 19th century were generally underfunded, as they were dependent on government budgets, loans, tolls and public subscription. This problem was exacerbated by the huge increase in road usage, due to the Australian gold rushes. Local government authorities were therefore established as authorities primarily responsible for funding and undertaking road construction and maintenance. The increasing amount of motorised transportation in the early 1900s lead to another major increase in traffic levels. The vehicles also required higher standard of roads. State road authorities were established in each state between 1913 and 1926. These authorities managed each state's road network, with the main arterial roads controlled and maintained by the state, and other roads remaining the responsibility of local governments. Though legislation differed in each state, highways were generally established as a subset of state controlled roads, which were the most important links between major cities, towns, and regional centres.
The federal government became involved in road funding in the 1920s. The Public Works Act was passed in 1922, which distributed $500,000 to the states according to population levels, conditional on states matching funding on a "dollar for dollar basis". The funds were specifically aimed at maintenance of roads outside of metropolitan cities, and state expenditure needed federal government approval; however, the primary purpose of the act was to reduce unemployment. The Main Roads Development Act of 1923 made $1 million available for road construction, and specific road projects were funded under the Federal Aid Roads Act of 1926. The 1931 Federal Aid Roads Act removed matching conditions, and were less restrictive on the way the money was used due to poor economic conditions resulting from the depression of the 1930s. Funding conditions remained at this lower level until 1959.
The depression of the 1930s slowed the funding and development of the major road network until the onset on World War II. Supply roads leading to the north of the country were considered vital, leading to the construction of Barkly, Stuart, and Eyre highways. Over 960 kilometres of the Stuart Highway, from Tennant Creek to Darwin, was upgraded from an often impassable track to an all-weather sealed highway that could cope with heavy military traffic. The Eyre Highway across the Nullarbor was formed just by grading the surface material.
The decades following the war saw substantial improvements to the network, with freeways established in cities, many major highways sealed, development of roads in northern Queensland and Western Australia under the Beef Cattle Roads Grants Acts. The interstate routes between Sydney and Melbourne were upgraded with the first four lane dual carriageway section of the Hume Highway opening in 1961, and the completed sealing of the Princes Highway between the cities in 1966. Large mining developments in the Pilbara region of Western Australia were undertaken lead to the improvement of the North West Coastal Highway from Carnarvon to Port Hedland, a project that involved building 30 bridges in a decade.
In 1974, the federal government assumed responsibility for funding the nations most important road links. Under the National Roads Act 1974, the most important roads between state and territory capitals cities were declared National Highways. The federal government fully funded construction and maintenance works undertaken by the states on these roads. The 16,000 kilometres (9,900 mi) of roads included in the original National Highway system varied greatly in quality. Some sections were no more than dirt tracks, whilst others were four lane dual carriageways. While 12,496 kilometres (7,765 mi) was sealed, there was also 3,807 kilometres (2,366 mi) of gravel roads. The National Highway was gradually improved, with the sealed proportion increased from 73 per cent in the early 1970s to 88 per cent by 1981. The sealing works were completed in 1989.:21–23
In 1988, the National Highway became redefined under the Australian Land Transport Development (ALTD) Act of 1988, which had various amendments up to 2003. The 1988 Act also defined a category of "Road of National Importance", which were partly funded by federal government. The Introduction of the AusLink (National Land Transport) Act in 2005 superseded the National Highway and Roads of National Importance classifications, which were replaced by the National Land Transport Network. The criteria for inclusion in the network was similar to the previous legislation, but expanded to include connections to major commercial centres, and inter-modal freight transport facilities. All of the roads included in National Land Transport Network as of 2005 were formally defined by regulation in October 2005. Auslink has since been replaced with subsequent legislation under the federal government's Nation Building Program, which includes the National Land Transport Network. The National Highways road routes developed under the former system are still designated as National Highways on route markers and road guidance signs. However, the new alphanumeric route numbering system being introduced to New South Wales and the ACT in 2013 does not distinguish between the former National Highways and other routes.
Route numbering systems
Unlike many other countries, most highways in Australia have names in addition to numbers, and they tend to be most widely referred to by those names, rather than code numbers, by the public. There are several different route numbering systems in use, as described in the following sections.
National Route Numbering System
In 1955, the Australian National Route Numbering System was introduced to simplify navigation across Australia. The National Route Numbers are marked by white shields that are present in directional signs, distance signs or trailblazers. The general rule was that odd-numbered highways travel in north-south directions and even-numbered highways in east-west directions, with only a few exceptions. National Route 1 was assigned to a network of highways and roads, which together linked all capital cities and coastal towns circumnavigating the mainland.
In the 1970s the National Highway scheme was introduced. These highways were federally funded, and could be recognised by their distinct green and gold route marker shields. These route markers are still used on some routes that were part of the former National Highway scheme.
The National Route system initially linked the centres of towns and cities and terminated at the junction of other national routes. The growth of bypasses around towns and cities changes the situation somewhat. National Routes often terminated at the metropolitan city limits rather than the individual city centres.
National Highways and National Routes have been phased out, or are in the process of being phased out, in all states and territories except Western Australia, in favour of the alphanumeric system (see below), although National Highway shields are still used to display certain alphanumeric routes in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.
State Route Numbering System
Important urban and inter-regional routes not covered by the National Highway or National Route systems are marked under the State Route system. They can be recognised by blue shield markers. They were practically adopted in all states by the end of the 1980s. In some states, some less important National Routes had been downgraded to State Routes.
As with the National Routes and National Highways, State Routes are being phased out in most states and territories in favour of alphanumeric routes. However despite the fact that Victoria has fully adopted alphanumeric routes in regional areas, state route numbers are still used extensively within the city of Melbourne as a part of its metropolitan route system.
Alphanumeric Route Numbering System
In the 1990s there was a major change to the route marking systems. Victoria and South Australia had completely overhauled their systems. They discarded the National and State Route Numbering Systems and introduced the alphanumeric marking scheme following the example set by Tasmania in the late 1970s.
The route numbers inherited from the original National Route Numbering System remains with a few exceptions, however they are now prefixed with letters denoting their grade. For example, Western Freeway is M8 until Ballarat and continues beyond as A8 Western Highway. They are not used extensively in the Melbourne metropolitan area where the blue-shield metropolitan route system is retained for most routes.
New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory are introducing the alpha numeric system from early 2013. Before being officially announced, new road signs were fitted with such numbers and then being "coverplated" with the existing route number.
The only numbered roads in the Australian Capital Territory are interstate highways from NSW and their interconnecting thoroughfares, as the Australian Capital Territory does not number its other highway or freeway grade roads.
Alphanumeric routes have also been introduced for many major highways and urban routes in Queensland, although many other roads retain markers from the National Route, National Highway, State and Metroad numbering systems.
Primary highways (called motorways in publications). These are typically dual carriageway freeway standard highways, with a wide median and wide sealed shoulder, used for emergency stopping. They connect capital cities to each other or to bigger rural cities and are also applicable to major city freeways. Interchanges may either be graded or level. They carry high volumes of traffic and bypass settlements, towns and sometimes cities.
Single carriageway interstate or interregional primary highways. Traffic volume less than "M" routes but with ample overtaking lanes, sealed shoulders and markings. They may pass through or bypass town centres.
Secondary highways linking together major towns on different "A" routes including certain lesser important former national routes. In addition, they may include major bypassed sections of former "A" or "M" routes and significant tourist routes. They are reasonably good quality sealed roads with shoulders either sealed or not.
Roads linking smaller settlements and towns to "A", "B" or "M" routes. May also be applied to short bypassed sections of former "A" routes. Fully sealed surface but of moderate to poor quality and may or may not have shoulders.
In the 1990s in Sydney and Brisbane, urban route numbering system were streamlined as a part of the Metroad scheme. Metroad route numbers were assigned to the key navigational corridors, which could be recognised by their distinctive hexagonal shields which superseded the state route, freeway and National Route schemes along their path. As of 2013, Metroads have been fully replaced by alphanumeric routes in Sydney and are in transition to alphanumeric routes in Brisbane.
Federally funded highways
The federal government contributes funding for the following road links, which make up the national road network, under the Nation Building Program.
- Sydney to Melbourne – Hume Motorway/Hume Highway/Hume Freeway
- Sydney to Brisbane – the Pacific Motorway (Sydney–Newcastle), New England and Cunningham Highways route and the Pacific Highway route
- Brisbane to Cairns – Bruce Highway
- Brisbane to Darwin – Warrego, Landsborough, Barkly and Stuart Highways
- Brisbane to Melbourne – Warrego, Gore, Newell and Goulburn Valley Highways and Hume Freeway
- Melbourne to Adelaide – Western Freeway, Western Highway, Dukes Highway, South Eastern Freeway and Adelaide-Crafers Highway
- Adelaide to Darwin – Port Wakefield Road and Stuart Highway
- Adelaide to Sydney – Sturt and Hume Highway/Hume Motorway
- Adelaide to Perth – Port Wakefield Road, Eyre, Coolgardie-Esperance(part) and Great Eastern Highways
- Perth to Darwin – Great Northern, Victoria and Stuart Highways
- Sydney to Canberra – Hume Motorway/Hume Highway and Federal Highways
- Melbourne to Canberra – Hume Freeway/Hume Highway and Barton Highways
- Hobart to Burnie including the link from Launceston to Bell Bay – Brooker, Midlands and the Bass Highway
- Townsville to Mount Isa – Flinders Highway
- Melbourne to Sale – Princes Highway
- Perth to Bunbury – South Western Highway
- Melbourne to Mildura – Calder Highway
- Sydney to Dubbo – Great Western and Mitchell Highways
- Sydney to Wollongong – Princes Motorway and Princes Highway
- Melbourne to Geelong – Princes Highway
For state listings see:
- List of highways in New South Wales
- List of highways in Victoria
- List of highways in Queensland
- List of highways in South Australia
- List of highways in Western Australia
- List of highways in Tasmania
- List of highways in the Australian Capital Territory
- List of highways in the Northern Territory
- Freeways in Australia
- Highway 1
- National Highway (Australia)
- Transport in Australia
- Road transport in Australia
- List of roads and highways
- List of Australian airports
- List of Australian ports
- National Association of Australian State Road Authorities (1976), Guide to the publication and policies of N.A.A.S.R.A. : current at December 1975 (10th ed ed.), Sydney,
cited in "AUSTROADS, NAASRA and COSRA". OZROADS: The Australian Roads Website. Archived from the original on 18 May 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
- Austroads (1997), Towards a Nationally Consistent Approach to Route Marking,
cited in "AUSTROADS, NAASRA and COSRA". OZROADS: The Australian Roads Website. Archived from the original on 18 May 2009. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
- Roads And Maritime Services (25 February 2013). "Questions and answers: A better way to navigate NSW roads" (PDF). Government of New South Wales. p. 9. Archived from the original on 17 November 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013. "Most States and Territories in Australia are moving to an alpha-numeric road numbering system."
- "A History of Australian Road and Rail" (PDF). Department of Infrastructure and Transport, Australian Government. Archived from the original on 17 March 2012. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- "History Of Roads In Australia". 1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 1974. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 25 January 1974. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- Australian National Audit Office (8 February 2001). "Management of the National Highways System Program" (PDF). Canberra ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. ISBN 0642442509. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- "'Australian Land Transport Development (ALTD) Act 1988'".
- "AusLink (National Land Transport) Act 2005". 8 July 2005. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
- "'AusLink (National Land Transport) Act National Land Transport Network Determination 2005 (No. 1)'". 2005-10-10. Retrieved 2012-09-23.
- NATION BUILDING PROGRAM (NATIONAL LAND TRANSPORT) ACT 2009
- Roads and Maritime Services (26 November 2012). "Alpha-numeric route numbers - Road Projects - Roads and Maritime Services". Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- "OzRoads: Northern Territory: proposed alpha-numeric routes". Retrieved 3 October 2013.[self-published source]
- Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads. "Mutcd 2003 Amend 8 Part 15D". Retrieved 3 October 2013.
- Roads and Maritime Services (26 November 2012). "Alpha-numeric route numbers - Road Projects - Roads and Maritime Services". Retrieved 17 December 2012.
- Main Roads Western Australia (21 September 2011). "Route Numbering". Guidelines for Direction Signs in the Perth Metropolitan Area. Government of Western Australia. Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013. "Main Roads has chosen to retain the shield numbering system"