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Control cities

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Title: Control cities  
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Subject: Florida State Road 429
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Control cities

A control city is a city or locality posted on a traffic sign indicating forward destinations on a certain route. These destinations aid motorists using the highway system to reach destinations along the various routes.[1] Such cities appear on signs at highway junctions to indicate where the intersecting road goes, or on mileage signs on longer routes.

United States

The determination of major destinations or control cities is important to the quality of service provided by the freeway. Control cities on freeway guide signs are selected by the States and are contained in the "List of Control Cities for Use in Guide Signs on Interstate Highways," published and available from American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials.
—Federal Highway Administration, Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, 2003 Edition, Chapter 2E[2]

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) states that control cities should be used:

  1. At interchanges between freeways (example US-1 in gallery)
  2. At separation points of overlapping freeway routes (example US-2 in gallery)
  3. On directional signs on intersecting routes, to guide traffic entering the freeway (example US-3 in gallery)
  4. On pull-through signs (example US-4 in gallery)
  5. On the bottom line of post-interchange distance signs (example US-5 in gallery)

The individual states ultimately have the authority to decide which cities can be control cities,[3] but the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials retains the authority to approve the official list and standardizes all control cities used on the Interstate Highway system in the United States. The published standard is not always followed, for a few reasons – major destinations have since appeared that were not on the original list, new roads have been built that provide new routes, or because of state highway departments' hesitancy to sign destinations in other states. Some examples:

A control city is not always a major city. For instance:

Occasionally, a closer large city is not a control city because a larger city is located farther along a highway. For example:

State names, national borders, and landmarks (including bridges and airports) may be used as if control cities. Such may prevent ambiguity and confusion.


Control cities are particularly necessary for highways that do not follow strict linear directions. Ontario's Queen Elizabeth Way, for example, wraps around the western end of Lake Ontario, with segments proceeding both east and west at different points. Compass directions are not used at all in its central sections, and the control cities of Toronto and (for the opposite direction) Hamilton/Niagara Falls/Fort Erie are the only bearings provided.

Each of the 400-series highways uses control cities, but the common Ontario practice is to use smaller, closer urban centres as alternatives to out-of-province cities. For example, on Highway 401, Cornwall displaces Montreal as eastbound control city for most of the St. Lawrence valley. Windsor, Chatham, London, Toronto, Kingston, Cornwall and (briefly) Montréal are control cities while larger centres such as Oshawa are omitted due to their proximity to Toronto.

The Ministère des Transports du Québec typically uses large urban centres as control cities, even if they are far away and even outside the province. For example, signs in Montreal, Quebec, indicate control cities as far as Toronto and Ottawa on major Autoroutes 20 and 40 respectively. New York and Vermont are used as control cities for Autoroutes 15 and 35 respectively.

The New Brunswick Department of Transportation tends to use cities within the province as control cities. The Trans-Canada Highway uses Edmundston, Fredericton, Moncton and Sackville as control cities from north to south. Bordering provinces are used sparingly, and only after they are the only remaining destination on the highway. Route 95, the link between the Trans-Canada Highway and Interstate 95, uses only Houlton, Maine as a control city to the west.


Continental Europe

Unlike in the United States and Canada, roads in Continental Europe are not signed with directional banners (east, west, north, and south), so the direction of the route is indicated by a major city or destination (directly or indirectly) reached by the route (examples FR-1 and DK-1 below). While not called "control cities", the function is the same.

Britain and Ireland

On UK motorways and primary routes, motorists are directed to the next primary destination. The term "control city" is not used. Though directional banners are not used, routes frequently direct use regional destinations (e.g. the South West, North Wales, Scotland) to direct long-distance traffic.

In the Republic of Ireland, directional banners are used on the M50.

Rest of World


Freeways, Motorways and Tollways in Australia, whilst not using the term 'Control City', operate on much the same system as in the United States and Europe. Directional markers are not used, instead the next large towns or cities which are likely to be the destination, or known waypoints for, motorists are used.

  • Within cities major suburbs will usually be used - In the eastern suburbs of Melbourne Chadstone & Dandenong, which are connecting hubs with the national route 1, Princes Highway, are used as route markers. Traveling inbound, depending upon the driver's location in Melbourne's east one of these markers will generally be used along with a marker 'City' referring to the Central Business District. The marker 'City' is only used when within the metropolitan area of a city, outside of the metropolitan area routes traveling towards that city will use the city's full name.
  • Outside of cities, major regional centers or capital cities will generally be used as markers.
  • The same principle applies to major and secondary surface roads in Australia, with the most major suburb or town, or the road's terminus in either direction being used as the 'control city'.
  • In some circumstances a major infrastructure location, most often Airports, will be used as a 'Control' City. In the case of surface roads if they connect to a freeway, motorway or tollway sometimes this connection will be used as a signing point.



External links

  • List of Control Cities for Use in Guide Signs on Interstate Highways
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