Functional Classification

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The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has set up functional classification guidelines. The guidelines are based on having a certain percentage of miles of each classification per urban or rural area. 

FHWA guidelines

Classification and Reclassification of a Road

A county or city outside a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) area, or an MPO, can request the classification or reclassification of a particular road segment under the system in the federal functional classification guidelines.

The heart of the guidelines is contained in its key list of classifications and descriptives given for each class in Chapter II

For each of the three areas (rural, urbanized and smaller urban areas):

  • Local roads provide a higher degree of access but lower travel mobility-flow.

  • Collectors provide a mixture of access and mobility.

  • Arterials, with two sub-classes “minor” and “principal,” provide lower access and higher mobility with the functional standards for minor and principal arterials mobility being relatively high for through traffic.

Road classification or reclassification actions are initiated by a locality, MPO, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) or FHWA.  The process is :

  1. The county, city or MPO requests a change or classification (usually by resolution) to the VDOT resident administrator.

  2. The resident administrator forwards the requests to VDOT's Transportation Mobility Planning Divsion (TMPD) for review if the request involves classification as a collector, minor or major arterial. (Resident administrators are authorized in 24 VAC 30-91-90 to exercise discretion to decide on functional classification of lesser roads as locals and secondaries.)

  3. TMPD reviews the request with respect to its consistency with the federal guidelines.

  4. If TMPD agrees with the request and if it falls within the allotted allowed mileage percentages, TMPD will forward the request to FHWA for approval.

  5. TMPD will notify the appropriate persons regarding the approval or rejection by FHWA or TMPD, and make appropriate changes.


Page last modified: Oct. 14, 2012