Highways in Taiwan are classified into five types:
As a general rule, the odd numbers represent north-south highways and even numbers represent east-west. The numbers increase moving west to east and north to south. Major north-south provincial highways are indicated by a one-digit number. Special routes of a highway use the same number, followed by a heavenly stem character. However, for English translation, these characters are replaced by letters in the alphabetical order.
The first controlled-access highway, and a predecessor to the national highways in Taiwan, was the MacArthur Thruway, built in 1964 between Keelung and Taipei. Construction on the first modern national highway, National Highway 1 began in 1971. The northern section between Keelung and Zhongli was completed in 1974, and the entire freeway was completed in 1978. It runs from the northern harbor city of Keelung to the southern harbor city of Kaohsiung, while there was an 8.6-kilometre (5.3 mi) branch (No. 1A) connecting to Chiang Kai-shek International Airport (now Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport).
Construction began on the other freeways in the late 1980s. The northern section of the second north-south freeway (National Highway 3) between Xizhi and Hsinchu was completed in 1997. The No. 1A Branch was extended to link No. 3 Freeway at Yingge, Taipei, and renamed as the National Highway 2. Three other short freeways (No. 4, No. 8, and No. 10) were built to link the two north-south freeways in Taichung County (now part of Taichung City), Tainan County (now part of Tainan City), and Kaohsiung County (now part of Kaohsiung City), respectively. The entire No. 3 Freeway was completed in January 2004.
To ease the congestion of No. 1 Freeway in the Taipei metropolitan area, a 20-kilometre (12 mi) viaduct was built in 1997 along the original freeway between Xizhi and the Wugu District of New Taipei to serve as a bypass for traffic not exiting and entering the freeway within Taipei.
The construction of a freeway connecting the Taipei metropolitan area and Yilan County began in 1991 and was completed in June 2006. It includes a 12.9-kilometre (8.0 mi) tunnel (Hsuehshan Tunnel), which is the ninth-longest road tunnel in the world. An extension from Yilan County to Hualien County is planned. However, its construction is being delayed by environmental concerns.
In January 2, 2014, the toll system was converted to a distance-based one. Tolls are no longer collected at toll booths but automatically by electronic toll collection (ETC).
Every one tenth of a kilometer is marked on the freeway with Arabic numerals to indicate freeway mileage; that is, the number of kilometers away from the northern end or western end of the freeway. Exit numbers are based on the freeway mileage. With the notable exception of exit-only signs, which are only expressed in Chinese (but with a right arrow indicating an exit-only lane), exit notification and system route reminder signs in the ROC freeway system are almost identical to their US counterparts.
There are four types of exit notification signs. The first notification sign appears two kilometers before the exit, providing the destination name and an Exit 2 km notice. The second sign appears one kilometer before the exit, providing the destination name and a Right Lane notice. The Right Lane notice warns the exiting driver to start switching to the right lane in preparation to exit and does not necessarily indicate that the right lane is an exit-only lane. The third sign appears a few hundred meters before the exit, providing the destination name and a right tilted arrow. The fourth sign is located at the exit and says Exit with a tilted right arrow.
Exit notification signs were slightly altered in December 2005. The green exit mileage label on top of the exit notification sign has been replaced with a yellow exit mileage label accompanied with the Chinese code name of the interchange. The Chinese code name of the interchange does not necessarily reflect the destinations listed on the exit signs and may represent the general location of the freeway interchange.
Long rectangular-dash dividers usually separate normal lanes. Short rectangular-dash dividers usually indicates a lane that is ready to turn into an exit, a merging lane, or a lane reserved for vehicles that have difficulty climbing high grade regions of the freeway.
Freeway entrances may have traffic lights to control the flow of vehicles entering the freeway.
The speed limit for cars on Taiwan's freeways range from 80 km/h (50 mph) on Freeway No. 5 (north of Toucheng, Yilan) to 110 km/h (68 mph) on Freeway No. 3 (south of Tucheng, New Taipei). The speed limit for trucks are usually 10 km/h lower. In non-traffic jam conditions, a vehicle must travel at least 60 km/h (37 mph).
Speed limits are enforced through radar activated cameras that take pictures of speed-violating cars. Because of protests, yellow warning signs are given in advance in Chinese of approaching radar activated cameras. Despite these warnings, speed violators continue to be captured by cameras.
As tailgating poses serious hazards of rear-ending, Article 6 of the Freeway and Expressway Traffic Control Regulation (Chinese: 高速公路及快速公路交通管制規則) requires the following minimum following distances when the weather is fine:
|Speed||Minimum distance per large vehicle
|Minimum distance per small vehicle
|60 km/h||40 m||30 m|
|70 km/h||50 m||35 m|
|80 km/h||60 m||40 m|
|90 km/h||70 m||45 m|
|100 km/h||80 m||50 m|
|110 km/h||90 m||55 m|
Longer following distance is required in the Hsuehshan Tunnel.
In the tunnel portions of freeways, lane change is prohibited when the lane divider consists of two parallel solid lines, used when lane change is considered unsafe should a collision cause a vehicular fire. Headlights must be turned on when traveling through tunnels; this is enforced by special cameras. Unlawful lane change or failure to turn on headlights in a tunnel is subject to an administrative fine of 3000 new Taiwan dollars.
Additional restrictions apply for the Hsuehshan Tunnel on Freeway No. 5, which is the longest tunnel in the entire system.
Article 19 of the Freeway and Expressway Traffic Control Regulation prohibits uses of and entries onto the freeways by:
Odd-numbered freeways have tolls, which are automatically collected by ETC. The current rate for cars is (NT$1.2/km up to 200km) + (NT$0.9/excess km), km being kilometers traveled per day. The first 20 km per day is free and thus deducted from the distance. Freeways may be used directly, but users are advised to apply for an “eTag”, which is free and when equipped gives 10% discounts and allows you to store pre-paid money for tolls. The eTag can also be set to pay tolls automatically with credit card or a savings account. Users without the eTag pay tolls at convenience stores 3 days after usage and if not, bills will be mailed to car owners.
Freeway service and rest areas start appearing south of Taoyuan City on the No. 1 and No. 3 freeways. Most rest areas provide gas stations, gift shops, convenience stores, and food courts. The Qingshui rest area located on the 172.4 km mileage marker of National Highway No. 3 is so popular that visitors can only park for 45 minutes and are prohibited from barbecuing.
There are eight national highways as of 2011. They are administered by the National Freeway Bureau.
Provincial highways (of Taiwan Province) are administered by Directorate General of Highways under Department of Transportation and Communications since 1999. Before the mid-1990s, the route numbers of provincial highways were limited to 1–27. In the 1992, planning started for 12 east-west expressways and the West Coast Expressway, indicated by route numbers greater than 60, to ease the congestion in the freeways. Some of these expressways are still under construction.
Many of these provincial highways cross through the special municipalities (i.e. Kaohsiung, New Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, Taipei) which are not part of Taiwan Province. Officially, provincial highways are now known as Taiwan highways, but many people still refer to them as provincial roads (Chinese: 省道; pinyin: Shěng Dào).
In 2007, provincial expressways started using the same exit notification signs that national freeways started using in 2006.
The following is a list of all provincial highways as of 2 August 2006:
Since July 1, 2006, the Freeway and Expressway Traffic Control Regulation (Chinese: 高速公路及快速公路交通管制規則) applies the same traffic rules on the freeways to the expressways, including the same prohibited traffic and following distances. While motorcycles remain generally banned from the expressways, Article 19 of the Freeway and Expressway Traffic Control Regulation makes it officially possible to allow a motorcycle with a cylinder capacity of more than 550 cm3 on certain expressways subject to the following restrictions:
A trial program to allow a motorcycle with a cylinder capacity of more than 550 cm3 on Provincial Highway 68 and Provincial Highway 72 started in January 2005 for one year and was extended an additional year. On July 2, 2006, more than 1500 Taiwanese motorcyclists took to the streets in Taipei to demand more open highways; Provincial Highways 68 and 72 were the only Taiwanese expressways open to high-end motorcycles.
County and City Highways are numbered from 101 to 205 since the numbered highways in Penghu (Pescadores) are incorporated into the system. Including those branch lines, there are totally 147 County and City Highways, and the total length stretches over 3,500 kilometres. The lowest number 101 is in New Taipei City. The route numbers generally increase moving north to south. Route No. 200 is in Pingtung. Routes No. 201 to 205 are in Penghu. While, County Highway No. 179, 184, 190, 195 does not exist.
A Township or District Road is prefixed the abbreviation of the county or city in a Chinese character where it is located. For example, the sample signs above show Hsinchu Roads No. 22, 21, and 23.
Special Roads in Taiwan are rarely used and appear in certain places.