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Project: Highways of the United States of America

Highways of the United States of America

44″ x 72″ Poster – $225 See Also: Maps of States and Regions

After almost two years of single-handed research, design, checking and cross-checking, I’m incredibly proud and thrilled to present my latest map project. It shows every single current and signed Interstate Highway and U.S. Highway in the contiguous 48 states in a style very similar to my previous Interstates as Subway Map and U.S. Highways as a Subway Map projects. Having made two separate maps that showed each type of road, I really had to at least try to combine them both into one map, didn’t I?

However, I’d stop short of calling this a “subway map”. While still taking many design cues from that genre, I’d rather call it a “simplified road map” instead. Because of the insane complexity of the two combined networks, there’s a lot more adherence to geography here than in those previous, more stylised diagrams. Yes, the roads have been straightened out a lot – especially the Interstates – but many cities fall pretty much exactly where they would be on a “real” map, and roads cross state borders at or very near the correct locations. The overall shapes of the states have also been preserved as much as possible: you’ll see why soon!

The map follows much the same design principles as the previous ones: white circles with black strokes denote named places (cities, towns, etc.) where two or more roads intersect. The more roads at that location, the larger the dot. Named places at intersections are always shown, even if they’re just a teeny-tiny little hamlet. Not all roads meet at named places, so there are intersections with no labels. Places that fall along a road between intersections are shown as a “tick”, and are included if they have a population of 1,000 or over (thanks, Wikipedia!). Obviously, some places are left off the map for clarity in very populous urban areas, especially if they are considered as part of a “greater” metropolis: I apologise in advance if your home town is missing. There’s still an incredible 4,385 named places on the map!

Having to show different types of roads on the same map meant that an additional level of complexity was introduced. I decided that stroke width was the best way to differentiate between two-digit Interstate Highways (the thickest stroke at 8 points wide in my working file), three-digit Interstates (6pt) and U.S. Highways (just 4pt wide). As before, bright colours were assigned to the “major” routes as defined by AASHTO: these are two-digit routes ending in “0” and “5”  for Interstates, and “0” and “1” for U.S. Highways. The U.S. Highways use a lighter tint of the corresponding Interstate colour to differentiate between them if they ever run in close proximity (this is rare, but it does happen: I-55 and U.S. 51 share the same roadway out of New Orleans, for example). Four different greys are then used for the “minor” routes, with cool greys being assigned to odd-numbered routes and warm greys used for even routes. Minor Interstates are represented in darker greys than the minor U.S. Highways to reinforce their higher position in the information hierarchy.

Roads that touch on the map while running parallel to each other are actually sharing the same physical roadway: in AASHTO-speak, they are “concurrent”. Because of the scale of the map, I can’t always show where a U.S. Route might leave a concurrent Interstate to serve a town and then rejoin again immediately afterwards.

Roads that run closely parallel without touching are not concurrent, but are sharing the same corridor. This often happens where an Interstate has supplanted a U.S. Route as the main highway through an area. While I’ve tried my best to show these corridors as accurately as possible, there are instances where the roads are on the “wrong” side of each other compared to the real world. This is especially true when a winding old U.S. Routes cross and recross a (much straighter) Interstate highway multiple times in a short distance.

But enough talk, here’s  a nice big  12,000px-wide version of the whole map over on Flickr!

Needless to say, this map is physically huge. My working Illustrator file was a massive 144 inches wide by 88 inches deep and posters are half that size – the smallest they can be and still retain good legibility. So why did I make the map so big and insanely detailed? Why was it important that the individual states retain their actual shape? Because I’m also making posters of individual states and regions.

And yes, there are posters for sale! Check out both the USA map and the individual state maps in my brand new shop.

Visit the Shop!
 

24 Comments

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  3. Mel

    Fantastic work! What poster would you suggest for my motor cycling husband as a Father’s Day gift. I leaning towards the whole United States one & possibly having it framed. Thank you again for your amazing artwork!

      • Mel

        Do you know the dementions of each poster in the combo pack? Also, I keep thinking about the big map in a frame! What a statement that would make! We have high12′ & 15′ ceilings. That would be incredible! Must contact my custom framer to see if that would be possible. Thanks, again!

      • Mel, the combo pack posters are each 36″ wide by 24″ deep. I’m so happy that you’re excited by the maps!

  4. Tom Holowach

    Wow… amazing. I do know about some major update info in So. Cal. When I lived in Pasadena, the I- 210 Freeway dead ended in Glendora for 25 years. They apparently have finished it since I moved away. It continues east, crosses both the 15 and 15E, then swings south to intersect the I-10 in Redlands. Just flew it in Google Maps.

    • Tom, my understanding is that I-210 still ends in Glendora: it’s California State Route 210 east of there. Caltrans has asked AASHTO to upgrade the whole route to Interstate, but it hasn’t been ratified yet.

      • Andrei

        The I-210 was completed to the I-15 about 12 years ago… then about two years later continued to cross the I-10. I have been driving this freeway daily all this time.

      • Andrei, I think you need to look closer at the signs as you drive. East of the intersection with SR 57 in Glendora, the signs are very clearly still California State Route shields, as shown in this Google Maps street view taken in 2012. The number is the same (210), but AASHTO has not approved the extension of INTERSTATE 210 to San Bernardino yet. Until they approve it and those green State Route shields become red and blue Interstate shields, the INTERSTATE ends in Glendora.

      • Tom

        Ahhh… fascinating. So it’s “green shield” 210 until it’s ratified. What an interesting factoid. I just read that CalTrans has officially thrown in the towel on ever completing the I-710 Long Beach Freeway through South Pasadena, and are going to start selling all the miles of properties they acquired by eminent domain back when I lived in Pasadena in the 1970’s.

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  7. domitype

    Very interesting – I have been on way too many of these roads!
    You are missing some freeway detail around Phoenix: I-10 and I-17 and Highways 60, 143 and 202.

    • The interplay between I-17, I-10 and U.S. 60 is too small to show on a map of this scale: in effect, it’s hidden under Phoenix’s “dot”. Highways 143 and 202 are Arizona State Routes, and as such aren’t shown on this map.

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