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I am trying to make sure things are standardized but when it comes to the tag for Primary or Trunk, it gets a bit confusing.

Referencing this page.

Says that certain highways are trunk and others are primary. Yet if you read the definition of Trunk, it states that it is controlled access. Now this definition is open to interpretation. Does controlled access mean level ground with stop signs or higher level of control. If you have access onto the highway without any signs, does that change it down to Primary?

To confuse matters, someone had already edited some of the roads as Primary yet according to the page above, they are Trunk. Some of the Trunk highways join onto Primary highways in the U.S.

To further confuse, states that any road that is federally funded should be Trunk, but no highway is fully funded in our area. Mainly provincial.

I just want to make sure that the maps are correct.

asked 17 Aug '11, 06:15

MeMaps's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

Looking at the Canadian tagging guidelines a trunk road is a road that is part of the national highway system. There is a list of all the trunk roads in Canada in this PDF starting at page 35.

Primary roads can be federally funded but are maintained by the provincial governments and not the national gouverment.

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answered 17 Aug '11, 10:19

Gnonthgol's gravatar image

Gnonthgol ♦
accept rate: 16%

Thank you.

I have read that document. With that in mind, some of the roads that someone else edited are classified a Primary when they should actually be trunk roads according to the definition.

I see that road classifications are also being asked about the US as well.

I guess I will just follow the guidelines and continue moving the roads that were classified Primary to Trunk.

I notice that the exports to my Garmin GPS at certain zoom levels only show the Primary routes. This would be the exporters issues.

(18 Aug '11, 19:48) MeMaps

I'm having the same issue for Costa Rica, the trunk definition applies to the Primary National Routes, as they are maintained by the central government. However, we have also Secondary and Tertiary Routes.

Should we skip the "trunk" category completely and focus on primary, secondary and tertiary routes? They would be semantically appropriate.

Checking out our neighbors, Panamá and Nicaragua, they use a primary highway for the Interamerican highway that connects all the way to Guatemala.

But in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico those roads appear to be trunk (Green and bolder).

In my opinion in Costa Rica we should do something like:

  • Primary National Routes: trunk
  • Secondary National Routes: primary
  • Tertiary National Routes: secondary
  • Anything else on regional level is practically residential.

But then it would be confusing to newcomers and it wouldn't be on par with then neighboring countries.

Checking the map of Costa Rica, the southern part of the Interamerican highway is a trunk and the northern part is a primary highway. I started changing the northern part to trunk but then I found this dilemma.

I don't know how to proceed... Because of the bolder rendering I personally highly prefer a trunk, but because of semantics and to be consistent with the neighbors, it should be a primary road.

The other option is to skip the primary category completely. But then the categorization would be very weird.

Argh. I better get some sleep.

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answered 17 Jan '13, 04:11

roqz's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%


Trunk vs. primary tagging is a global problem, not only in Canada. For instance, in Great Britain they use trunk for most of primary roads. This is quite a big problem for the map to be cohesive. Needs further discussion.

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answered 05 Apr '12, 21:22

Kozuch's gravatar image

accept rate: 8%


The difference between trunk and primary provides a difference that different countries use in different way - nothing wrong with that. The definition is easy in the UK. It needs a survey to look at the road signs. The discussion about this took place years ago for UK roads and works well. It is up to the community in each country to determine how they are best used, if at all.

(06 Apr '12, 16:38) ChrisH

This really is completely wrong POV... the map should be homogenous accross various locations... I understand UK community might have negotiated this particular usage at a certain timepoint, but current usage definitely is not to be cemented forever.

(06 Apr '12, 19:06) Kozuch

Why should the map be homogeneous? How can it possibly when the world is such a diverse place? Why should the Britain and Bangladesh have to share the same standards when completely different rules apply to building, using and signing roads?

What is the point of your desired global consistency and why would you want to lose local detail? Local detail is very valuable.

As an aside how can my point of view be wrong? It is my point of view. It might be different from yours, but that does not make it wrong.

(07 Apr '12, 17:46) ChrisH

Ok, sorry, you definitely have a right to have your own POV. I am not talking about loosing local detail, that does not negate the map to be kind of homogenous. The problem rather is uncomplete rendering setting, which should take into account particulart things so that the map is more homogenous... I think the first time you will visit Bangladesh you might actually change your mind since you would be used to read the map differently in your home country...

(10 Apr '12, 09:01) Kozuch

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question asked: 17 Aug '11, 06:15

question was seen: 10,356 times

last updated: 17 Jan '13, 04:11

NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum