Road designation or abbreviation

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Tunisian A4 motorway with road sign reading  A4  road designation

A road designation and a road name abbreviation are ways to refer to a road.

The road designation can be created from the original road name or constructed from the road type and number. Road designations are used especially to have a non-ambiguous system of labeling roads on maps and road signs.

Use of letters[edit]

Letters are often used in road designations to indicate a class of roadways. Within such a class, roads are distinguished from each other by a road number. The way such letters are used depends on the country or other political jurisdiction which contains and controls the road. For instance, among A1 motorways, the one in Spain has a hyphen between the A and the 1 (Autovia A-1) while in Germany the Autobahn 1 is written A 1, with a space between the A and the 1. In Argentina there are zeros between the A and the 1 (Autopista A001).

Single-letter abbreviations[edit]

  • "A" may mean "motorway" in a number of countries (ex. Autoroute in France or Autostrada in Italy or Autobahn in Germany), usually the largest and highest-quality roadways in the country
  • "B" may mean "Bundesstraße" in Germany
  • "C" may mean county in the US
  • "D" may mean "départementale" in France or "Diaľnica" in Slovakia
  • "E" may mean "European" road or "Expressways" in Zimbabwe
  • "F"
  • "G"
  • "H" may mean "Hawaiian Interstate" in the US
  • "I" may mean "Interstate" in the US
  • "J"
  • "K" may be used for a state highway in Kansas in the US
  • "L" may mean "local" route in Ireland
  • "M" used for motorways in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia, metropolitan routes in South Africa, municipal roads in Portugal, and also used for state highways in Michigan in the US
  • "N" may mean "national" road
  • "O"
  • "P"
  • "Q"
  • "R" may mean "regional" route in South Africa, Ireland, Portugal and Ukraine or "ring" road or "Rýchlostná cesta" in Slovakia
  • "S"
  • "T" T roads in Malaysia are roads in Terrengganu; in some parts of the U.S., they are township roads; In Estonia, T is the official prefix for national routes; “territorial” roads in Ukraine.
  • "U" may mean "unclassified" road; also used in Utah routes in the US
  • "V"
  • "W"
  • "X"
  • "Y"
  • "Z"

Multiple-letter abbreviations[edit]

  • BAB: Bundesautobahn (federal motorway) in Germany, only used in documents, normally just A
  • BR: Brazilian Federal Highway
  • CH/CR: County Highway, Route or Road in the US or Canada among other countries
  • IC: Itinerário complementar (complementary route) in Portugal
  • IP: Itinerário principal (principal route) in Portugal
  • NH: Is used to designate National Highway network in India
  • SH/SR: State Highway, Route or Road in New Zealand or the US
  • TH/TR: Township Highway, Route or Road in the US
  • US: United States Numbered Highway

Road systems[edit]

Depending on the country, the letter attributed to a road may be part of a road grading system, be a shortening for a type of road especially in a foreign language or refer to a geographical zoning system, such as the Appalachian Development Highway System or the county highway systems of California, Iowa, and Michigan in the United States.

Existing road systems[edit]

International systems[edit]

  • AH roads in the Asian Highway Network
  • CA-: highways part of the Central American highway network
  • E roads in the International E-road network in Europe
  • EV: long-distance cycling routes in the EuroVelo network of Europe
  • TAH: highways part of the Trans-African Highway network

National systems[edit]

Australian M, A, B, C, D system[edit]

M is for primary roads, A for single carriageway interstates, B for secondary highways, C for roads linking small settlements and D for unsealed roads linking very small remote towns.

British M, A, B, C, D, U system[edit]

M stands for "motorway" while A, B, C, D are grades of roads (most important first) and U means "unclassified". However C, D and U are not used in road signs.

Chinese G, S, X, Y system[edit]

G stands for national highway and S is for provincial roads. X and Y are for local roads between counties and villages.

Cyprus A, B, E, F system[edit]

A stands for motorway and B is for main roads. E and F are for smaller local roads.

Estonian T system[edit]

T is the prefix for all roads, however not represented on route shields. The prefix is mostly only used by the Estonian Road Administration and is not in common usage when referring to roads.

French A, N, D system[edit]

A stands for "autoroute" (motorway), N for "national road", D for "départementale" road and C for "communale".

German A, B system[edit]

A stands for Autobahn (motorway), B for Bundesstraße (literally "federal road"). There are also L roads (Landesstraße for Bundesland; in Saxony and Bavaria St for Staatsstraße), K roads (Kreisstraße for districts, in some states of Germany K roads are classified as Landesstraßen 2. Ordnung and also carry an L number).

Formerly, B roads were also designated as F (for Fernstraße, literally "long-distance road") in East Germany until 1990 and as R (for Reichsstraße, literally "Empire's road") in the Weimar republic and Nazi-Germany until the Second World War.

A roads use white numbers on blue shields, B and R roads black numbers on yellow shields and L, K and St roads – if designated – black numbers on white shields. The respective letters are normally not included in the shield.

Irish M, N, R, L system[edit]

M stands for Motorway, N for National primary road or National secondary road, R for Regional road and L for Local road.

Jamaica A, B system[edit]

Netherlands' A, N system[edit]

A stands for "Autosnelweg" (motorway), N for Non motorways. The A-codes use white letters on a red shield, the N-codes black letters on a yellow shield. Where a highway changes into a motorway or vice versa, it may continue to use the same number, but the letter and the color are switched.
When the letter is followed by three digits, the road is typically a provincial road. When there are only one or two digits, it is typically a national road.

Philippines E, N system[edit]

Philippine expressway and national road shields. Expressway are designated with "E", and signed with the letter. National roads omit the "N" on signage

The Philippines' new route numbering system, started in 2014, for its network of expressways (limited access roads) and national roads (of the primary and secondary types), uses E and N, respectively. National roads ("N" roads, of the primary and secondary designation) use white shields based on the Australian National Route shields, but signed with the number only, with N included for inventory purposes. Expressways ("E" roads) uses signs the same design as with national primary and secondary roads, but colored yellow, and unlike national roads, includes E to prevent confusion.

Senegal N, R system[edit]

N stands for "national" roads while R is for "regional" roads.

Slovak D, R system[edit]

D stands for "diaľnica" (motorways) while R is for "rýchlostná cesta" (expressways).

South African N, R, M system[edit]

N stands for national road, R stands for regional road and M stands for metropolitan road.

Vietnamese QL, TL, HL system[edit]

"QL" on a national road shield
"ĐT" on the front and side of a kilometer post along a provincial road

The following abbreviations appear on guide signs and kilometer posts:

cao tốc (expressway)
quốc lộ (national road)
TL or ĐT 
tỉnh lộ or đường tỉnh (provincial road)
hương lộ or huyện lộ (rural district road)
đường cặp kênh (canal towpath)

See also[edit]