All freeways are highways, but not every highway is a freeway. A freeway is a "controlled-access" highway — also known as an express highway — that's designed exclusively for high-speed vehicular traffic. Traffic flow on a freeway is unhindered because there are no traffic signals, intersections, or at-grade crossings with other roads, railways, or pedestrian paths.

The main difference between freeways and multilane highways is that in the case of freeways, these roads are separated from the rest of the traffic and can only be accessed by ramps. These ramps (slip roads) allow for speed changes between the freeway and arterial thoroughfares and collector roads. Opposing directions of traffic on a freeway are physically separated by a central reservation (median), such as a strip of grass or boulders, or by a traffic barrier. Traffic across a freeway is carried by overpasses and underpasses.

Around the world, freeways are known by various terms like Autobahn (Germany), autopista (Spain), autostrada (Italy) and snelweg (The Netherlands).

Comparison chart

Freeway versus Highway comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartFreewayHighway
At-grade crossings No Possible
Intersections or traffic signals No Possible
Ingress and egress Regulated via slip roads (ramps) From intersections or ramps


A highway that's not a freeway may also have long stretches that are without any intersections. But highways typically have lower speed limits, may pass through inhabited areas where there are traffic signals, pedestrians or other slower traffic.


In the U.S., state highways are maintained by state governments, but interstate highways — virtually all of which are freeways — are maintained jointly by the state and federal government.

This is an interesting video that discusses the differences between not only highways and freeways but also other types of roads, such as a street, avenue, boulevard, circle, court, place, lane or alley:


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"Freeway vs Highway." Diffen LLC, n.d. Web. 18 Jan 2019. < >