The highway system of the United States is a network of interconnected state, U.S., and Interstate highways. Each of the
fifty states, the
District of Columbia,
Northern Mariana Islands, and the
U.S. Virgin Islands own and maintain a part of this vast system, including U.S. and Interstate highways, which are not owned or maintained at the federal level.
Interstate Highways have the highest speed limits and the highest traffic. Interstates are numbered in a grid: even-numbered routes for east–west routes (with the lowest numbers along
Mexico and the
Gulf of Mexico), and odd-numbered routes are north–south routes (with the lowest numbers along the
Pacific Ocean). Three-digit Interstates are, generally, either beltways or spurs of their parent Interstates (for example,
Interstate 510 is a spur into the city of
New Orleans, Louisiana, and is connected to
U.S. Numbered Highways are the original interstate highways, dating back to 1926. U.S. Highways are also numbered in a grid: even numbered for east–west routes (with the lowest numbers along
Canada) and odd numbered for north–south routes (with the lowest numbers along the
Atlantic Ocean). Three-digit highways, also known as "child routes," are branches off their main one- or two-digit "parents" (for example,
U.S. Route 202 is a branch of
U.S. Route 2). However,
US 101, rather than a "child" of
US 1, is considered a "mainline" U.S. Route.
State highways are the next level in the hierarchy. Each state and territory has its own system for numbering highways, some more systematic than others. Each state also has its own design for its highway markers; the number in a circle is the default sign, but many choose a different design connected to the state, such as an outline of the state with the number inside. Many states also operate a system of
Scenic byways can be designated over any classification of road in the United States. There are the
National Scenic Byways,
National Forest Scenic Byways and
Bureau of Land Management Back Country Byways at the national level. Most states have their own system for designating byways, some more systematic than others. Native American tribes may designate byways as well.