Highway or Freeway? What’s the Difference

The in basket: Alan Paulson wonders if highways 3 and 16 are highways or freeways, and if there is a difference. The signs at on-ramps say “Freeway entrance,” but the word “freeway” is rarely used on maps or other signs.
While he was on the line, he related the story of an accident he’d been involved in in which a driver coming down the arcing on-ramp at the Wollochet interchange on Highway 16 near Gig Harbor on Oct. 23 was going too fast to make the curve and wound up bouncing out into the mainline and totaling Alan’s car and his own. Alan wondered if that interchange or that design is more accident prone that others.


The in basket: Alan Paulson wonders if highways 3 and 16 are highways or freeways, and if there is a difference. The signs at on-ramps say “Freeway entrance,” but the word “freeway” is rarely used on maps or other signs.
While he was on the line, he related the story of an accident he’d been involved in in which a driver coming down the arcing on-ramp at the Wollochet interchange on Highway 16 near Gig Harbor on Oct. 23 was going too fast to make the curve and wound up bouncing out into the mainline and totaling Alan’s car and his own. Alan wondered if that interchange or that design is more accident prone that others.
The out basket: Steve Bennett of the regional traffic engineers says “The term ‘freeway’ is used more as a layman’s term.  There is no official definition of the term in (state law).  The term roughly refers to limited access highways.”
There is a definition of a state highway in the law, but it’s a silly, circular one that says only that a state highway is a highway that has been designated a state highway.
The Kitsap Sun uses the term Highway rather than SR or US, which the State Patrol and transportation officials use to designate, say, SR 16. That may just be a throwback to when I was city editor 20 years ago and decided no one says SR or US , they say “Highway,” so that’s what we should write.
That’s contrary to the AP Stylebook, which governs what we calls things in most cases, and says we should call SR 16 state Route 16, for example
As for the Wollochet on-ramp, Alan’s October accident doesn’t show up yet in the accident records the state relies on to plan its safety projects. But Steve Bennett says, “There have been no reported run-off-the-road accidents on either the westbound or eastbound on-ramp at Wollochet from 1/1/99 to 9/30/05.  This is not a common type of accident.” 

   

One thought on “Highway or Freeway? What’s the Difference

  1. There is a major difference between a highway and a freeway.
    The definition of a freeway is free-flowing travel with limited entrances and exits. Most freeways are divided in which this provides more safety: for night driving with head lights and division of on-coming traffic.
    An example is the freeway from Bremerton to Poulsbo; although it is called State Highway 3. It has signs which state freeway entrances. The speed limit is 60 m.p.h., When the 4-lanes ends it becomes 2-lanes with traffic coming in either direction. The speed than changes to 55 m.p.h. Then to 45 m.p.h. prior to the Hoodcanal Bridge.The signigant difference is when it becomes 2-lanes it has become a dangerous highway with speed limit fof 55 to 45 to the Hoodcanal Bridge. With multiple housing developments and homes, and drivers trying to enter or exit onto the highway, with a high volume of traffic and sometimes the lack of patience of a driver, accidents happen when the driver tries to do either of the above. The habit of people following too close is one of the things we have observed living here on State Hwy. 3 N. Numerous times vehicles have driven off the highway onto our property in order to avoid a collision.
    The difference above all is safety for people who travel these highways or freeways.
    Freeways are free-flowing and move traffic in 2 differenct directions with 2-lanes for each direction at a faster speed with limited stop and go because the vehicles are not exiting and entering over half a block distances or closer.
    A comment: WSDOT should do the original plan for State Hwy. 3 N to the Hood Canal Bridge.
    There are too many residential homes in existence with driveways and or developments with roadways, The Proposed Solution has too many stop lights, and is outdated before it was put on paper. It is a very dangerous proposal and the WSDOT should listen to the people that live here and witness what is happening.
    We want a freeway and the original plan is a freeway.
    There needs to be holding areas too.
    This needs to the addressed now before anyone else dies on State Hwy 3 N.

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