The network of autovías and autopistas in Spain.
According to wholevehicles, Spain has the largest motorway network in Europe, which was mainly built from the 1990s. The first autopista dates from 1969 and the first autovía from 1956. Since the early 1990s, Spain has experienced gigantic growth in highway construction. In 2009 almost all main roads (carretera nacional) were replaced by a highway and all larger towns are connected by at least one, but often several highways. Spain’s highway network is the longest in the world after the United States and China. In 2005 it has both that of France and Germanycaught up. As of January 1, 2021, the highway network consisted of 15,766 kilometers. Its construction weakened sharply after 2009, but revived again from 2014, only to fall back again in 2020.
Most major Spanish cities have an extensive network of motorways, especially the immense motorway network of the capital Madrid, with 3 ring roads, a bypass, numerous radial highways and connecting routes. However, Madrid has not built any highways in the center, the center is relatively car-free compared to the enormous highway network in the suburbs, suburbs and satellite cities. Barcelona, Valencia, Seville and Bilbao also have an extensive network of motorways.
The Baleares and Canarias archipelagos also have a relatively extensive network of motorways. Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Mallorca in particular have an extensive network of motorways, some of which are also among the busiest in Spain.
In addition to the immense network of motorways, Spain also has a very extensive network of well-developed main roads. A very large part of the through roads has been constructed with a lane of 9 or 10 meters wide, so that you can get along well. Moreover, the amount of traffic outside the cities is much lower than in most other regions of Europe, which means that relatively large distances can be covered in a short time, which is also necessary in view of the large distances in the countryside. Both the carreteras nacioneles and the carreteras autonómicas are well developed.
- According to Abbreviationfinder, Madrid is the capital of Spain.
Spain also has toll roads, most of which were historically in northeastern Spain. Elsewhere in Spain, however, there are far fewer toll roads. Because many tourists only go to Catalunya or the Basque Country with their own car, people often got the impression that Spain has a lot of toll roads, but these were also the two regions with the largest number of toll roads. Elsewhere in Spain there are only sporadic toll roads, around Madrid various ‘radiales’ have been implemented as toll roads, but it is also possible to drive completely toll-free in the Madrid region. In the period 2019-2021, the concession of various toll roads was terminated, after which they became toll-free. In eastern Spain in particular, few toll roads remain since then.
The construction costs of autovías in Spain are particularly low, usually below €10 million per kilometre, unless a route has many tunnels. Many highways on the Meseta are built for construction costs of between €3 and 6 million per kilometre, which is lower than anywhere else in Europe. Therefore, a lot can be built with a relatively small road budget. The Spanish road budget is smaller than the road budget for national roads in the Netherlands, despite the fact that Spain has 47 million inhabitants. Since 2003 Spain has been spending more money on railways than on roads, in recent years Spain has spent twice as much on railways than on roads. In 2018, the RCE ‘s road budget was €2.4 billion. In 2014 this was €2.15 billion.
|Congestion in the TomTom Traffic Index 2016|
|215 cities in Europe|
|64||Palma de Mallorca||29%|
|101||Santa Cruz de Tenerife||25%|
Spanish cities have the fewest traffic jams and delays in Europe. In 2016, the largest Spanish cities held the lowest positions in the Travel Time Index of European cities. The highest-ranking city, Barcelona, was in 44th place of the most congestion-prone cities in Europe. Zaragoza is the least prone to congestion in Europe. During the holiday exodus, there is significantly less congestion in Spain than in France, Germany or Italy. The phenomenon of Black Saturday is hardly known in Spain, there is ‘Operación Salida’ where a lot of traffic leaves the major cities, but this causes relatively few traffic problems because of the very extensive motorway network.
The reason that Spanish cities are much less prone to traffic jams than comparable cities elsewhere in Europe may be due to the different work rhythm in Spain. Traditionally, people work until 8 or 9 pm with a long lunch at home. However, more and more companies are switching to more regular working hours as elsewhere in Europe. As a result, the morning rush hour is more spread out and there are two evening rush hours, around 6:00 PM and 8:00 PM, which means that the peak of congestion is lower.
Spain also has a remarkable spatial planning. The cities are densely built-up, but the cities do have a well-functioning road network. Compared to other Southern European countries with a high building density, Spanish cities have a significantly better functioning road network. Many city roads have at least 2×2 lanes, often wider. As a result, Spanish traffic can flow well. Where Southern Europe is known and infamous for chaotic city traffic, this is much less the case in Spain.
The common road authorities in Spain are the national government, through the Ministerio de Transportes, Movilidad y Agenda Urbana (MITMA), the autonomous regions, the provinces and the municipalities. The comarcas in most regions are only administrative without a board. The former carreteras comarcales were under the control of the national government and were transferred to the autonomous regions between 1980 and 1984.
The national roads managed by MITMA, belonging to the Red de Carreteras del Estado (RCE) include the important autovías and autopistas with the prefix ‘A’ or ‘AP’, as well as the carreteras nacionales with the prefix ‘N’. These form the main road network for through traffic in Spain. There are, however, the necessary exceptions. For example, the prefix ‘A’ is also used in some autonomous regions and provinces. These are not under the control of MITMA. In addition, many short motorways around large cities also belong to the RCE.
There are exceptions due to the complex state structure in Spain. For example, in Navarra and País Vasco (Basque Country), only the AP-68 is managed by the national government. All other motorways and roads are under regional management. Here it is again that in Navarre all roads except the AP-68 are a carretera autonómica, but again the Autonomous Region of the Basque Country does not manage any road, here all roads, including the motorways, are under the control of the provinces.
In the Islas Canarias (Canary Islands) and the Islas Baleares (Balearic Islands), all roads are under decentralized regional management, with the actual management being transferred to the Consejo Insular (Baleares) or Cabildo Insular (Canarias), so each island is responsible for its roads and not the autonomous government. There is no road under national control here. However, roads may qualify for subsidies from the national government.
The autonomous regions usually manage the main roads that are not part of the RCE. These are also regularly autovías and autopistas, especially in Andalucía, Catalunya, Galicia, Madrid, Navarra and Valenciana. In other autonomous regions, only a few autovías and autopistas are under regional management. It is characteristic that autonomous regions relatively often have toll roads with shadow tolls.
The provinces manage the provincial roads, which are usually the remaining paved roads outside built-up areas. They are usually called the Diputación de <province>. Only in the Basque Country do the provinces also manage the motorways. Asturias, Cantabria, the Islas Baleares, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia and Navarra are not further subdivided into provinces and thus have no provincial roads.
The municipalities manage the local roads within the built-up area. In Madrid, the municipality also manages the M-30 motorway. Separate road numbering has been introduced for the municipalities only in Asturias. Each municipality has its own prefix there. In addition, there are prefixes for cities, such as AC-xx in A Coruña, the S-xx around Santander or SE-xx around Seville. In case these are autovías or autopistas, this means that they are usually managed by MITMA and therefore belong to the Red de Carreteras del Estado. Exceptions are the PA-xx routes around Pamplona, which are managed by the autonomous region of Navarra.
The road number is therefore not indicative of road management. This makes the Spanish system one of the most complex in the world because of the many exceptions.
|Ministries of Transport in Spain|
|Ministerio de Obras Públicas (MOP, 1931-1977) • Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Urbanismo (MOPU, 1977-1991) • Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT, 1991-1993) • Ministerio de Obras Públicas, Transportes y Medio Ambiente (1993-1996) • Ministerio de Fomento (MFOM, 1996-2020) • Ministerio de Transportes, Movilidad y Agenda Urbana (MITMA, 2020-)|
The A-14 at Lleida, part of the Red de Carreteras del Estado.
The A-66, part of the RCE.
The AP-15 at Pamplona, part of the Red de Carreteras de Navarra.
The CM-42, part of the Red de Carreteras de Castilla-La Mancha.
Spain’s motorway network consists of autopistas and autovías. Previously, there was a clear class difference between the two highways. Since the late 1990s, that difference has largely disappeared, the maximum speed is the same and both types are always grade separated with at least 2×2 lanes and emergency lanes. There are still some pieces of substandard autovías here and there, but this is quickly decreasing. The autopistas are usually (but not always) toll roads, the autovías are toll-free. In addition to the toll, the biggest difference is in the number of service areas and exits. In a number of cases, toll-free autovías are also installed right next to tolled autopistas.
Spanish motorways are divided into 3 categories:
- State Highways
- Motorways of the autonomous comunidades
- Motorways of the provinces and local authorities (Basque Country, Baleares and Canarias only)
Autovias & autopistas
As of January 1, 2016, the distribution of autovías and autopistas was as follows;
|Type||state||autonomous region||Provinces / other|
|autopista (toll)||2,539 km||329 km||171 km|
|autovia||8,841 km||2,882 km||573 km|
Length by autonomous region
As at January 1, 2019.
|Castilla y Leon||2377|
|Islas Balearic Islands||158|
|National Motorways in Spain|
|A-1 • AP-1 • A-2 • AP-2 • A-3 • A-4 • AP-4 • A-5 • A-6 • AP-6 • A-7 • AP-7 • A- 8 • AP-8 • AP-9 • A-10 • A-11 • A-12 • A-13 • A-14 • A-15 • AP-15 • A-21 • A-22 • A-23 • A-24 •A-25 • A-26 • A-27 • A-28 • A-30 • A-31 • A-32 • A-33 • A-35 • AP-36 • AP-37 • A-38 • A- 40 • A-41 • AP-41 • A-42 • A-43 • A-44 • A-45 • AP-46 • A-47 • A-48 • A-49 • A-50 • A-51 • AP-51• A-52 • AP-53 • A-54 • A-55 • A-56 • A-57 • A-58 • A-59 • A-60 • AP-61 • A-62 • A-63 • A -64 • A-65 • A-66 • AP-66 • A-67 • A-68 • AP-68 • AP-69 • A-70 • AP-71 • A-72 • A-73 • A-74 •A-75 • A-76 • A-77 • A-77a • A-80 • A-81 • A-83 • A-91|
Although Spain today has an extensive network of high-quality roads, this was not always the case. For much of the 20th century, Spain lagged significantly behind the rest of Western Europe. Spain has made a huge catch up in a relatively short time, which means that it can now be counted among the best road network in Europe.
The first development of the Spanish road network
On October 31, 1900, the first car in Spain was registered, the owner was José Sureda Fuentes from Palma de Mallorca. At the time, Spain had a road network that mainly consisted of narrow unpaved roads. At the time, the road network consisted of 36,306 kilometers of “road”. In the early 20th century, roads were paved on a small scale, mainly with cobblestones, but also with semi-surfaces such as gravel and macadam. The road network grew slowly between 1900 and 1920, the railways still played the main role for transport. Most roads were narrow, winding and steep in mountain areas, so driving long distances was tiring and uncomfortable. In the mid-1920s, there were over 100,000 motor vehicles in Spain.
In 1926, the Circuito Nacional de Firmes Especiales was established, a network of roads prioritized to be paved. These were the first through roads in Spain to be made suitable for higher speeds. At the time, tourism was already a driving force to improve the road network. The CNFE covered a fairly extensive network of main roads for the time, in addition to the radial roads from Madrid, also the coastal routes and a connection from San Sebastián to Salamanca. The CNFE routes were numbered with Roman numerals, these were also marked on kilometer markers along the way and occasionally on buildings. There was hardly any real signage.
The Civil War and the Plan Peña
The CNFE formally ended in 1931 with the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic. The 1930s were politically unstable, eventually leading to the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939, inflicting extensive damage on the conflict zones. Where elsewhere in Europe the road network was developed as an economic stimulus in the 1930s, this was hardly the case in Spain. From 1939, Spain was a dictatorship under Francisco Franco, who pursued a model of autarky, self-sufficiency of resources. This resulted in very meager budgets in which hardly any money was invested in the road network. However, from 1939 the Plan Peña. wasdeveloped, which became definitive in 1940. Although this was a road plan, the Plan Peña is best known for the road numbering it introduced, with the 6 radials of Madrid and a network of carreteras nacionales. Madrid ‘s radial roads would dominate the development of Spain’s road network for over 50 years. Under the Plan Peña, the Spanish government took control of three road classes, the carreteras nacionales, the carreteras comarcales and the carreteras locales.
Although Spain was not directly involved in the Second World War, the country was in a period of stagnation. The road network was in bad shape, it had not been invested in for almost 20 years. The road network in the late 1940s consisted of narrow, winding roads with hardly any signposts, markings and safety features. Through traffic had to pass through every village. That is why in 1950 the Plan de Modernización de carreteras was launched, a plan in which almost 11,000 kilometers of road between 1951 and 1955 would be tackled. Due to the limited resources, these were mainly point-by-point improvements. There were hardly any major upgrades.
The impetus for the first high-quality roads
On May 8, 1952, the double-lane N-II between Madrid and Barajas Airport opened. This is usually considered the first autovía in Spain, although the road could not be called a real motorway. In 1953 a law was passed that made it possible to build toll roads. However, it would be another 10 years before Spain’s first toll road actually opened, the Túnel de Guadarrama of the N-VI northwest of Madrid in 1963. In 1961, the first Plan General de Carreteras was launched.launched. This plan did not immediately lead to a structured upgrade of Spain’s roads, but Spain did gradually open itself to the world, making foreign investment an opportunity. In 1965 the use of motorway concessions was approved, initially for the AP-7 between Barcelona and the French border at La Jonquera and the AP-8 between Bilbao and the French border at Behobia.
The breakthrough of high-quality roads
1967 was an important year for the Spanish roads. In that year the Plan REDIA was launched, which would upgrade 4,928 kilometers of road to a 12 meter wide carriageway over a period of 4 years. The plan mainly included Madrid’s radial roads (NI to N-VI), the N-340 along the east coast and part of the N-634 along the north coast. These roads were made suitable for speeds of up to 100 km/h and the wide carriageway made it easier to overtake trucks. By 1971, traffic was finally able to travel fairly quickly to and from Madrid. In 1967 the Programa de Autopistas Nacionales Españolas (PANE) was also launched, a plan to cover some 3,000 kilometers in the late 1970s.to have autopista ready. Relatively little came of this plan, but it did set the tone for the development of the Spanish road network during the 1970s, namely the construction of toll roads. On July 2, 1969, Spain’s first autopista opened what is now the C-32 between Montgat and Mataró. This was followed on 3 November 1969 by the first autopista on the Barcelona – La Jonquera corridor, which today included the C-33 and AP-7 between Barcelona and Granollers.
From the mid-1960s, more approach roads to major cities were expanded with 2×2 lanes, the predecessors of the later autovías around cities such as Madrid and Seville. In 1964, the first section of the A-3 between Madrid and Vallecas opened. In 1965-1967, the A-2 between Madrid and Barajas Airport was upgraded and extended to Torrejón de Ardoz, plus the Torrejón diversion in 1968. In 1967 the A-6 was upgraded from the old double -lane road between Madrid and Las Rozas with 2×3 lanes opened, Spain’s first six-lane highway. In 1968 the first stretch of A-1 between Madrid and San Agustín de Guadalix opened, as well as the first stretches of the A-4 and A-5 on the south side of Madrid. Thus, in the period 1964-1968, all major access roads of Madrid have already been developed into motorways. In 1968 also opened the first stretch of the A-4 between Sevilla and Dos Hermanas in Andalucía.
The 1970s: Oil Crisis, the End of the Franco Era and a New Constitution
The emergence of high-quality roads from the second half of the 1960s was inhibited by the oil crisis of 1973. The formation of a second Plan General de Carreteras therefore did not get off the ground. In the 1970s, almost exclusively built on the autopistas in northeastern Spain. These were largely completed by 1979, such as the AP-1 between Burgos and Miranda de Ebro, the AP-2 between Zaragoza and El Vendrell, the AP-4 between Sevilla and Cádiz, the AP-7 along the Spanish east coast, from Alicante to the French border, the AP-8 along the Basque coast and the AP-68 between Bilbao and Zaragoza.
The dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975, followed by a democratic revolution and a new constitution in 1978. Major constitutional changes were made in the new constitution. The very central state under Franco was quickly transformed into the most decentralized government in Europe, with all regions being established as an autonomous community. The regions became autonomous in three phases, first Basque Country and Catalunya in 1980, followed in 1982 by Galicia and all other regions in 1984. During this period, road management was also radically changed, the national government reduced its stake in road management, about 60,000 kilometers of road were transferred to the new autonomous regions. The Red de Carreteras del Estadowas reduced from 80,000 to 20,000 kilometers.
A new road plan
In order to capture the new reality in the development of the road network, the 2nd Plan General de Carreteras was also adopted in 1984, 23 years after the first road plan. The plan included the construction of 2,590 kilometers of autovía. Priority was given to the conversion of Madrid’s radial roads into motorways. This was done cheaply by simply doubling the roads that had been widened to 12 meters under the 1967 REDIA Plan, with diversions at villages and larger towns. The Plan General de Carreteras included the construction of the A-1 to A-6 and the first parts of the A-30, A-31, A-42, A-62 and A-66. Typically, this only included the roads in flat areas. For example, the A-6 was only included in the plan as far as Benavente, and not the mountainous section from Benavente to A Coruña, so that Galicia in particular was a disadvantaged area in the first road plan.
The highways were delivered at a rapid pace, the program was ambitious but proved feasible and was largely completed by 1992. With this, Spain finally had a larger network of motorways, which were also constructed as toll-free autovía, instead of the tolled autopistas, which had become quite unpopular and were massively avoided by drivers. In the 1980s, the automome regions also developed their own road plans for the carreteras autonómicas. These roads also had to be renumbered, it was often the old carretera comarcales that were given a number by the autonomous region. However, this process did not have much priority, the Basque Countrywas the first to introduce autonomous road numbering in 1989, but most regions did not do so until the 1990s and some regions after 2000, the Región de Murcia was the last to abolish the carretera comarcal road numbering in 2008.
The politicization of road plans and economic crisis
The Plan General de Carreteras from 1984 was to run until 1991 and was largely completed by 1992. There were plans for a third road plan, which would run from 1992 to 2000. However, there was a desire not to draw up a road-only plan, but a general infrastructure plan. Under the premiership of the socialist Felipe González, the emphasis shifted from roads to railways. To this end, the Plan Director de Infraestructuras was approved by the Council of Ministers in March 1993, shortly before the elections.
The PSOE lost its majority in the June 1993 elections and formed a minority government backed by the Catalan CiU. This was followed by a politically unstable period, as a result of which the Plan Director de Infraestructuras could not be approved definitively. Because the Plan General de Carreteras 1984-1991 had ended, interim measures were necessary to maintain road construction until the Plan Director de Infraestructuras was finally approved. To this end, the Plan de Actuaciones Prioritarias en Carreteras (PAPCA) was approved by the Council of Ministers in December 1993, which lasted until the final Plan Director de Infraestructuras could be approved by Parliament in December 1995. Early elections had already been declared due to the breakdown of cooperation with the Catalan CiU. The Plan Director de Infraestructuras, somewhat pushed through by the PSOE, also had an unusually long run from 1993 to 2007, almost twice as long as the then-planned 3rd road plan, which should have run from 1992 to 2000. The criticism was that the PSOE would rule “over its grave” with a plan of such a long duration, with actual implementation only starting after the PSOE was out of power.
This would dominate further road plans from the 1990s onwards. The PP and PSOE alternated power, shortened the period of their predecessors’ plans and launched their own road plans. The PSOE always tried to introduce plans with an unrealistically long term, in order to be able to determine policy long after they were no longer in power. The Plan Director de Infraestructuras was barely implemented by Prime Minister Aznar’s PP, who in 1997 introduced a Programa de Autopistas de Peaje to build some 440 kilometers of toll road. These were actually built, the PP even won the elections of 2000 with an absolute majority, as a result of which it introduced its own road plan that same year, the Plan de Infraestructuras. In fact, every road plan since the Plan General de Carreteras of 1984 has been superlative, with more and more autovías being added to the planned network.
In 2005 came the Plan Estratégico de Infraestructuras y Transporte(PEIT) in force prepared by the PSOE. This included a large number of new autovías. During this period (2000-2007), thousands of kilometers of new motorways were put into operation in Spain. Nowhere in Europe were so many new motorways built as in Spain. An important reason that highways could be built so easily were the very low construction costs of mostly € 3 – 6 million per kilometre, the great support from the population and the low population density in large parts of Spain. However, the development of the motorway network came to an abrupt end due to the economic crisis of 2008. The PSOE had to take unpopular measures, including the withdrawal of contracts and tenders for motorways in 2010. Spain’s road construction almost came to a standstill as a result and the PSOE lost the 2011 elections. The conservatives led by Prime Minister Rajoy launched itPlan the Infraestructuras, Transporte y Vivienda (PITVI). This was considerably less lavish than the PEIT, but this was partly because of the new projects added to the PEIT in 2005, none had started in 2012. PITVI took over these projects, plus a small number of new projects.
Spain’s economy recovered strongly from 2014. However, the budget deficit had risen sharply due to the crisis. In order to be able to make the desired investments in the road network, the Plan Extraordinario de Inversión en Carreteras (PIC) was launched in 2017. In the PIC, €5 billion worth of 2,000 kilometers of road projects are implemented through PPP projects with availability fees, a model proven by then elsewhere in Europe. However, nothing came of the PIC, road construction in Spain continued to decline after 2015, many projects were included in the budget, but with only € 100,000 per year, so they did not go into the implementation phase.
- 1926: Circuito Nacional de Firmes Especiales (CNFE)
- 1940: Plan Peña
- 1950: Plan the Modernización de Carreteras
- 1961: I Plan General de Carreteras (PGC)
- 1964: I Plan de Desarrollo de Espana
- 1967: Plan REDIA
- 1967: Program of Autopistas Nacionales Españolas (PANE)
- 1968: II Plan de Desarrollo de España
- 1972: III Plan de Desarrollo de España
- 1984: II Plan General de Carreteras (PGC)
- 1993: Plan Director de Infraestructuras (PDI)
- 1997: Programa de Autopistas de Peaje
- 2000: Plan de Infraestructuras (PIT)
- 2005: Plan Estratégico de Infraestructuras y Transporte (PEIT)
- 2012: Plan de Infraestructuras, Transporte y Vivienda (PITVI)
- 2017: Plan Extraordinario de Inversión en Carreteras (PIC)
In Spain you have to pay a toll on the autopistas. This concerns the AP routes and a select number of regional highways, especially around Madrid, Barcelona and in Galicia. The tolls for autopistas are high, which is why toll roads are avoided en masse by freight traffic. There is a lot of toll avoiding traffic on the parallel carreteras nacionales. On the N-II between Zaragoza and Lleida, up to 90% of the traffic consists of trucks.
In the Basque Country, the AP-8 is an important toll road between Bilbao and San Sebastian. Other longer toll roads include the AP-2 between Zaragoza and Barcelona, the AP-6 northwest of Madrid, the AP-9 in Galicia, the AP-15 to Pamplona and the AP-68 from Bilbao to Zaragoza. The AP-7, well- known among tourists, between the French border, Barcelona and Alicante has become toll-free between 2019 and 2021. Of those AP-7, only a few toll routes remain on the Costa del Sol in the extreme south of the country.
In addition, there are regional toll roads, especially around Madrid, Barcelona and some routes here and there. Some toll roads are only with shadow tolls. Although the perception of many tourists is that Spain has a lot of toll roads, in reality it is not that bad, about 80% of the Spanish highway network is toll-free. This is because many tourists travel to Catalunya, which has a high proportion of toll roads.
A number of toll roads ran into problems as a result of the economic crisis from 2008 onwards, because the traffic was very disappointing. This was not only due to the reduced traffic volume, but mainly because these toll roads were usually built with a view to large-scale new spatial developments, which were not carried out due to the economic crisis. Some toll roads have fewer than 2,000 vehicles per day. The strategy of building toll-free autovías parallel to toll roads hindered optimal use of toll roads.
In 2021, it was announced that Spain would introduce tolls on autovías and autopistas and later on all major roads from mid-2024.
In Spain, very many road projects were carried out as concessions with shadow tolls in the period 2000-2012, especially in 2007 and 2008, a great many of these types of projects were completed. This was done both by the national government (exclusively for the Plan de Acondicionamiento de Autovías de Primera Generación) and by the regional governments, notably in Catalunya, Galicia and Madrid, but also elsewhere. Excluding the national modernization projects, more than 2,200 kilometers of autovía have been realized as a concession with shadow toll.
List of shadow toll projects in Spain
|Modernization Madrid – Burgos (CyL part) as part of the Plan de Acondicionamiento de Autovías de Primera Generación||2012|
|Modernization Madrid – Zaragoza as part of the Plan de Acondicionamiento de Autovías de Primera Generación||2012-2013|
|Modernization by Castilla-La Mancha as part of the Plan de Acondicionamiento de Autovías de Primera Generación||2012|
|Modernization Madrid – Ocaña as part of the Plan de Acondicionamiento de Autovías de Primera Generación||2010|
|Modernization Puerto Lápice – Cárdenas as part of the Plan de Acondicionamiento de Autovías de Primera Generación||2012|
|Compensation by shortening toll route at Jerez de la Frontera||2005|
|Compensation by shortening toll routes at Girona, Barcelona, Tarragona||2000|
|Compensation by shortening toll route at Sagunto||2000?|
|Construction Pamplona – Logroño||2004-2006|
|Construction Pamplona – border Aragon||2005-2012|
|Modernization by Castilla-La Mancha as part of the Plan de Acondicionamiento de Autovías de Primera Generación||2012|
|Construction Segovia – Valladolid||2005-2008|
|doubling Padrón – Ribreira||2008|
|Construction via Ártabra near A Coruña||2012-2013|
|Construction Ourense – Celanova||2013|
|doubling Curro – Sanxenxo||2008|
|Construction Dozón – Ourense||2007-2009|
|Construction of Carballo – Berdoias||2016|
|Construction Santiago – Brión||2008|
|Construction Oviedo – Gijón||2007|
|Construction of Villafranca de Ebro – El Burgo de Ebro||2008|
|Construction Giant – Alcover||2008|
|Construction Vilanova i la Geltrú – Vilafranca del Penedès||2011|
|Construction Manresa – Berga||2007|
|Construction Centelles – Ripoll||2008-2011|
|doubling Cervera – Girona||2013|
|Construction of Sant Feliu de Guíxols – Platja d’Aro||2005-2008|
|Construction of Maçanet de la Selva – Llagostera||2007|
|Construction Eix Diagonal||2011|
|doubling Ibiza – Sant Antoni||2007|
|Construction of Toledo – Tomelloso||2005|
|Construction of Llíria – Losa del Obispo||2008|
|Construction of the Ibiza ring road||2007|
|Construction Bypass Madrid||2002|
|Construction of the 3rd Madrid ring highway, cross-subsidy of Madrid’s radial roads||2002-2007|
|Construction Griñón – Ciempozuelos (not executed)||–|
|Construction Fuenlabrada – Griñón||2007|
|Construction Quijorna – Navas del Rey||2008|
|doubling Son Ferriol – Manacor||2006|
|Construction of Alcantarilla – Caravaca de la Cruz||2001|
List of highest motorways in Spain
|Puerto de Somosierra||1,444 m|
|Puerto de la Mora de Huetor||1,390 m|
|Portillo del Padornelo||1,335 m|
|Tunel de Guadarrama||1,310 m|
|Puerto de Monrepos||1,282 m|
|“km 67”||1,280 m|
|“km 20”||1,270 m|
|Tunel del Negron||1,225 m|
|Puerto de Escandón||1,223 m|
|Puerto de Manzanal||1,221 m|
|Puerto de Alcolea||1,218 m|
|“km 90”||1,202 m|
|Puerto de Vallejera||1,186 m|
|“km 8”||1,183 m|
|Puerto de Cabrejas||1,180 m|
|Portillo de la Canda||1,161 m|
|Altos de Radona||1,156 m|
|Venta Nueva||1,105 m|
|Puerto de Pedrafita||1,080 m|
|Puerto del Carretero||1,040 m|
|Puerto de Cella||1,013 m|
|Puerto Pozazal||1.002 m|
|Alto de Cuatro Calzadas||990 m|
|Puerto de la Brujula||981 m|
|“km 136”||975 m|
|Puerto Los Altos||960 m|
|Puerto de Paniza||925 m|
|Puerto de Bejar||924 m|
Main road network
The N-502 on the Puerto de Menga (1,564 m).
The main road network consists of carreteras nacionales. They formed the main road network of Spain before the construction of the motorways. The NI to N-VI formed the radials of Madrid but have been converted into autovía in quite a few places. Here and there traces of the old radials still exist. The other carreteras nacionales are numbered with a three-digit number. On many important routes, carreteras nacionales have been replaced by autovías, but often still exist as parallel routes. Contrary to what is often suggested, autovías are not always built directly over N-roads. This occurred in particular in the 1980s and early 1990s, newer autovías are often constructed on a parallel route, whereby the old N-road has mostly been preserved.
Unlike some other countries, carreteras nacionales are often not transferred to a local authority after the construction of a parallel autovía. This mainly happens when a ring road is constructed and the old route through a village center is transferred to an ayuntamiento. In many places in Spain, however, there are still carreteras nacionales parallel to autovías, such as the N-630 that still exists almost everywhere between Seville and Gijón, despite the A-66 often running parallel to it at most a few kilometers away.
It is not possible to deduce from the road number how important a road is. However, it is possible to deduce where a number runs approximately. The numbers are always three digits and the series starting with a 1 is between the NI and N-II. The series starting with a 2 is between the N-II and N-III and this goes up to the series with a 6. This numbering runs clockwise. It can also be deduced that higher numbers run further from Madrid. For example, the N-110 will run closer to Madrid than the hypothetical N-190. The second digit in the number indicates the distance from Madrid. For example, the N-340 runs approximately 400 kilometers from Madrid. In practice, therefore, there are seldom road numbers that have a second digit such as 5 or 6, because there are few places where one can be at 500 or 600 kilometers from Madrid.
|Carreteras nacionales in Spain|
|NI • N-II • N-III • N-IV • NV • N-VIN-102 • N-104 • N-110 • N-111 • N-113 • N-120 • N-121 • N-122 • N-123 • N-124 • N-125 • N-126 • N- 135 • N-141 • N-145 • N-150 • N-152 • N-154 • N-156 • N-204 • N-211 • N-220 • N-221 • N-225 • N-230 •N-232 • N-234 • N-237 • N-238 • N-240 • N-241 • N-260 • N-301 • N-310 • N-320 • N-322 • N-323 • N- 325 • N-330 • N-331 • N-332 • N-335 • N-336 • N-337 • N-338 • N-339 • N-340 • N-341 • N-344 • N-349 •N-350 • N-351 • N-352 • N-354 • N-357 • N-362 • N-400 • N-401 • N-403 • N-420 • N-430 • N-431 • N- 432 • N-433 • N-435 • N-442 • N-443 • N-445 • N-446 • N-501 • N-502 • N-521 • N-523 • N-525 • N-532 •N-536 • N-540 • N-541 • N-544 • N-547 • N-550 • N-551 • N-552 • N-554 • N-555 • N-556 • N-559 • N- 601 • N-603 • N-610 • N-611 • N-620 • N-621 • N-622 • N-623 • N-625 • N-627 • N-629 • N-630 • N-631 •N-632 • N-634 • N-635 • N-636 • N-637 • N-638 • N-640 • N-642 • N-644 • N-651 • N-655|
|European roads in Spain|
|E1 • E5 • E7 • E9 • E15 • E70 • E80 • E82 • E90 • E801 • E803 • E804 • E901 • E902|
The traffic volume in Spain is very variable, outside the major cities traffic intensities are significantly lower than in large parts of Europe, also on the motorways. Traffic intensities are higher in and around the major cities, but the Spanish urban highway networks are very extensive, so that large traffic flows are spread over several routes, so that the intensities are for a large part not much higher than elsewhere in Europe. An exception, however, is the M-30in Madrid, this is the busiest highway in Europe with up to 328,000 vehicles per day on the east side of the center. At the same time, however, the M-30 is also the only highway with traffic volumes of more than 200,000 vehicles per day. Intensities of more than 150,000 vehicles per day are measured only on a very limited number of road sections, especially around Madrid and Barcelona. Perhaps striking are the high traffic volumes on the islands, the GC-1 in Las Palmas and the Ma-20 in Palma de Mallorca are among the busiest highways in Spain.
Outside the major cities, motorways often do not have much more than 10,000 to 20,000 vehicles per day and there are relatively many motorways with traffic volumes of less than 10,000 vehicles per day. The toll roads in particular are unpopular in many parts of Spain, with very low traffic volumes. The record holder is the AP-41 between Madrid and Toledo, which only uses 500 to 1,000 vehicles per day. This is the least used highway in regular use in Europe. This makes the Madrid region both the busiest and the quietest highway in Europe.
Spain has one of the most complex numbering systems in the world. There are three nationwide numbering systems; the carreteras nacionales (N), the autopistas (AP) and autovías (A). In addition, the comunidades have a numbering system, for example, roads of Castilla y Leon are abbreviated with CL. The third layer is the provincial roads. For example, the province of Barcelona has the abbreviation B. This provides many prefixes, so one can find AP, A, C and B roads around Barcelona. AP from Autopista, A from Autovía, C from Catalunya and B from Barcelona. Almost all roads have a number, local roads have an addition, for example “v” (vecinal). Road numbers can therefore have up to six characters. (X-xxxx-x).
The current national road numbering system was established in 2003 with the renumbering of motorways in Spain. This replaced an older numbering system where no distinction was made between autovías and autopistas. In the past, autovías have also been signposted with an N number, as there was a clear difference in design requirements between autovías and autopistas until the 1980s. However, the road numbering of the carreteras autonómicas is older and was largely established after the creation of the autonomous regions in the early 1980s, although the official renumbering in some regions took until after 2000. This mainly concerned the ex -carreteras comarcaleswhich were then transferred to the autonomous regions and included in the road numbering system of these regions.
Although the Spanish system is complex, it is nevertheless structured logically. Lower numbers mainly indicate major roads, although in autonomous regions the one- and two-digit roads are generally skipped (for example in Andalusia with the exception of the A-92). One then works with three and four digit numbers. The higher the road number, the lower its importance.
The use of a hyphen between the prefix and the road number is not very common in Europe. The tradition in Spain dates back to the 1920s, presumably to indicate more clearly the designation of the Madrid radians, as they are denoted by Roman numerals, the NI to N-VI, which is more readable than NI to m NVI.
The BI-2235 in Bizkaia, in the management of the Diputación Foral de Bizkaia.
There are two main classes of roads in Spain, the Red de carreteras del estado (RCE, network of state roads) and the Red secundaria (secondary network), which includes all other roads. In addition, the secondary road network is again divided per autonomous region, the exact name of which differs per region, but often consists of the Red básica (basic network) and Red complementaria (additional network) or Red comarcal (secondary network).
In many autonomous regions, the carreteras autonómicas fall under two road classes, the main routes and secondary routes. These often all have a three-digit road number, but often a different color is used, such as orange road number plates for the main routes and green for the secondary routes. In addition, the yellow road number plates are often secondary roads.
For example, in the Comundidad Valenciana, the two-digit CV routes ending with a 0 are the major autonomous trunk roads, and ending in another digit are the secondary trunk roads. Three-digit roads then form the secondary road network.
However, the road number says nothing about the extension standard, some high road numbers are an autovía, while some low numbers are single lane roads. Autovías are mainly built on the basis of traffic intensity and importance. Some short routes with little regional importance can still handle a lot of traffic.
The road numbers in Spain have their own color code. Its use is fairly consistent in Spain.
|Color code||Road type||Remark|
|carretera national||National highways||also primary roads in Catalunya, Navarra & Basque Country|
|red basic||Primary autonomous roads||Can also be highways. The exact shade of orange varies by region. Also known as the Red naranja|
|save comarcal||secondary autonomous roads|
|save local||Tertiary autonomous roads|
|save provincial||Provincial roads|
The first numbering of routes in Spain came about with the Circuito Nacional de Firmes Especiales of 1926, when a small number of the main connections were given a Roman number. This numbering was replaced in 1940 with the introduction of the Plan Peña, which laid the foundation for the current road numbering of the radial roads of Madrid and the carreteras nacionales. In addition, the carreteras comarcales and the carreteras locales were also numbered, a vast network of roads under the control of the national government.
When the construction of motorways started in the 1960s, there was no road numbering for these new autopistas. To this end, in 1971 a road numbering system especially for motorways was introduced. In this road numbering, a distinction has already been made between A numbers for national routes (autopistas interurbanas) and other prefixes for regional connections (autopistas urbanas, suburbanas e insulares), often related to cities and islands.
The 1971 autopista numbering ranged from A-1 to A-6 and A-14 to A-68, although many numbers were skipped. A problem with this numbering was that the connections that did not run from Madrid frequently changed numbers. For example, the highway from the French border to Valencia had three numbers, A-17, A-2 and A-28. Therefore, in 1975 the road numbering of autopistas was adjusted again, with the introduction of the A-7, A-8 and A-9 and the addition of A-xx numbers for branches thereof. The numbering of ring roads remained unchanged. This remained the national highway numbering system until 2003.
The carreteras autonómicas were introduced between 1980 and 1984. These were the carreteras comarcales and carreteras locales that had been transferred to the autonomous communities. This was followed by a process of identification and renumbering of these roads, which started in 1989 in the Basque Country and was completed in 2008 in the Región de Murcia. In many cases the road number remained the same but only the prefix changed. The exact method of road numbering and classification has been determined separately by each autonomous community.
From the late 1980s, Madrid’s radial roads were converted to autovía. Initially, these kept their N-number. This became problematic from the early 1990s, when Spain had a growing network of N-numbered autovías. A number of motorways that were built entirely over a new route did receive their own A number according to the numbering system that was introduced in 1971/1975. The big change came with the renumbering of motorways in Spain in 2003. At that time, all existing and planned autovías were given an A number and the autopistas an AP number. However, the numbering of the ring roads remained largely unchanged. It is often thought that the complex situation with many prefixes in Spaindates from 2003, but in fact this goes back to 1971. However, this situation was expanded from 2003, partly because the autonomous communities also introduced their own prefix for motorways.
Spain uses blue signs on highways with white letters. The font is Interstate, one of the most widely used signage fonts in the world. It can also be found, for example, in the Netherlands and the United States. There are white signs with black letters on the underlying road network. Road numbers are consistently indicated, which means that around larger cities there are often many numbers on the signs. An advantage is that around cities such as Madrid, Seville, Barcelona or Zaragoza, no countless targets are listed, but mainly the road numbers of radiating roads. Signs use two font sizes, a larger type for main targets and a smaller type for lesser targets, making it easy to navigate around major cities. The choice of goals is generally logical.
Spain uses white road markings for all permanent situations. Yellow road markings are used for road works. This was not always the case, presumably in the early 1960s a yellow marking was introduced for the line separating driving directions; the left-hand side marking for split lanes and the center line for oncoming traffic, similar to that of the United States. The 1987 road marking instruction changed back to completely white road markings, in line with most of Europe.
Yellow markings are nowadays used in permanent situations exclusively for marking pedestrian zones and parking prohibitions.
On motorways, the division line has a length of 6 meters, with 11 meters in between, so that a 6-11 system exists. On other roads with a maximum speed between 50 and 100 km/h this is 4.5-8 and at maximum speeds lower than 50 km/h 2-5.5.
On motorways, a broken edge marking between the lanes and the emergency lanes was originally used in a 20-4 pattern. In 2007 they switched to a continuous edge marking and many highways have been remarked with continuous edge markings in the years since. However, on some new motorways, continuous edge marking has been applied alternately or not. In 2020, a new road marking directive has been issued in which the right-hand side marking on motorways must be uninterrupted in all cases.
The speed limit in Spain is 120 km/h on autovías and autopistas. Trucks are allowed 90 km/h on motorways. The maximum speed is 90 km/h outside built-up areas, sometimes 100 km/h on double-lane roads that do not have the status of autovía. Trucks are allowed 80 km/h outside built-up areas. Within built-up areas 50 km/h applies on roads with more than two lanes and 30 km/h on roads with one lane. An exception applies to through roads through built-up areas (travesías) where 50 km/h also applies.
In 1992 the speed limit on autovías was increased from 100 to 120 km/h. It was always allowed to drive 120 on autopistas. At the same time, the maximum speed in built-up areas was reduced from 60 to 50 km/h. In 1990 it was considered that the maximum speed on autopistas would be increased to 130 km/h, but this was ultimately not implemented. In 2011, the maximum speed was reduced from 120 to 110 km/h for some time. However, this was unpopular and on July 1, 2011, the maximum speed was reduced to 120 km/h.
On roads outside built-up areas, a distinction was made between main roads and other roads. On roads with a declaration of closure for slow traffic and an emergency lane of at least 1.50 meters width, 100 km/h was allowed. On other main roads outside built-up areas, a maximum speed of 90 km/h is allowed. The network of roads where 100 km/h is allowed is relatively large, in Spain one will more often encounter a higher maximum speed than the standard speed limit on the secondary road network than in many other countries. The difference with Portugal is remarkably large. In 2018, this involved approximately 10,000 kilometers of main road where 100 km/h could be driven. However, on December 28, 2018, the Council of Ministers approved a general reduction to 90 km/h, which took effect on January 29, 2019.
The number of road deaths per year on the ‘vías interurbanas’.
In 2010, there were 53 road deaths per 1 million inhabitants in Spain. The country has thus achieved the third largest reduction in road deaths since 2001, compared to other EU countries, with a 55 percent decrease. Spain is now one of the safest countries in the EU and is by far the safest country in Southern Europe. In 2015, 36 road deaths per 1 million inhabitants, comparable to the Netherlands.
Road fatalities by road type
|autovía / autopista||264||213|
Road fatalities by mode of transport
|Mode of transport||2014||2015|
Use of safety equipment
Number of road deaths that did not use safety equipment.
|Without seat belt||763||164||141|
|Without child seat||26||3||4|
|Without helmet (motorcycle)||27||3||9|
|Without helmet (moped)||73||0||4|
|Without helmet (bicycle)||30||15||17|
Spain is divided into autonomous regions (Comunidades) which are described in detail below. See the image below for the location of the regions.
|Autonomous Regions (Comunidades) in Spain|
|Andalucía Aragón Asturias Cantabria Castilla -La Mancha Castilla y León Catalunya Extremadura Galicia Islas Baleares (Balearic Islands) Islas Canarias (Canary Islands) La Rioja Madrid Murcia Navarra País Vasco (Basque Country) Valenciana _|
Autonomous regions in Spain.
An overview of the highways in Spain.  
- autopistas de peaje: 3,039 km
- autovias: 12,484 km
- Carreteras multicarril: 1,640 km
Overview per road manager
Save the carreteras del estado
Roads in the management of the national government (RCE):
- autopistas de peaje: 2,539 km
- autovias: 8,849 km
- Carreteras multicarril: 486 km
Save the carreteras de Comunidades Autonómas
Roads in the management of the autonomous regions:
- autopistas de peaje: 329 km
- autovias: 2,929 km
- Carreteras multicarril: 758 km
Save the carreteras de las Diputaciones y Cabildos
Roads in the management of local governments:
- autopistas de peaje: 171 km
- autovias: 606 km
- Carreteras multicarril: 397 km
In 2013, 405.7 billion passenger kilometers were traveled in Spain.