Road classification in Montenegro

Montenegro has a population of about 625,000 and an area of 13,812,  making it one of the smallest countries in the world (161st). Montenegro is divided into twenty-one municipalities and two urban municipalities, subdivisions of Podgorica muncipality. Each municipality can contain multiple cities and towns m (from wikipedia). The country is an official candidate for membership of the European Union.

Law on the classification of roads of 2004

Montenegro’s Law on roads of 2004 includes the following (from an unofficial translation):

Road network consists of public and unclassified roads.

Public roads (highways, motorways, regional, local, and streets in settlements) are state-owned property. Public roads are traffic areas of common interest to the public road traffic, which can be used in a manner and under conditions prescribed by the regulations on public roads, and traffic safety.

Terms used herein shall have the following meanings:

1) state road  a public road, intended for traffic linking regions and major resorts in the country and outside it (the roads of neighboring countries). State roads: highways, main and regional roads;

2) International road is a public road that is classified (by an international treaty) as a  part of international routes;

3) the highway is a state road that is intended only for motor vehicles, it is an integral part of road connectivity with neighboring countries, and has established through regional plans. Highway traffic is technically a public road specially designed and built for motor vehicles, which has been so designated by a traffic sign, which has two lanes of traffic in either direction physically separated (green belt, protective fence, etc..) Without intersections with cross roads and rail and tramways at the same level and that can be turned on or off only specific and specially constructed public roads to the correct lane highway;

4) main road is a state road that connects the cities or the main commercial area of ​​the Republic. Integral parts of the main road were built and executed in width fittings road area;

5) regional road is a state road intended for the connection between important centers of local communities and linking with other public transport routes which are equal  or more categories of the road system surrounding states. Regional roads provide functionality and rationality of public road network in the Republic and are of special interest for the Republic. Components of a regional road are the connections which are derived in the width of the road area;

6) municipal road is a public road connecting settlements intended for the community or in connection with settlements of neighboring communities or connecting parts of settlements, natural and cultural attractions, or some buildings at the community level. Municipal roads are: local roads and streets in residential areas.

7) local road is a public road that connects the villages and settlements in the local community, or a continuation of the corresponding roads adjacent communities, and is important for the local traffic on the territory of the local community. Access roads connecting railway stations, sea ports, air ports, tourist sites, cultural and historical sites and similar facilities with other public roads are local roads, too.

8) street is the route within a city or town that was built with walkways or pedestrian and bicycle paths;

9) unclassified road surface is used for the transport of any kind and that is available to multiple users (rural, field and forest paths, roads, embankments for flood control, parks, and the like.)


According to the importance for traffic and for linking function they have, public roads in the area are categorized into:

  • State roads (highways, main and regional roads) and
  • Municipal (local roads and streets in settlements).

Other classifications of roads for Montenegro

 The Montenegro Statistical Office‘s note on the 2011 annual survey of the road network (ref. 396) summarises the road network development by road types which are

  • Asphalt
  • Gravel
  • Earthen and other

 The document also provides the description of road types as:

  • Public  road  surface  is  of  general  importance for  the  traffic  that  each  is  free  to  use  under  conditions prescribed by law and which was declared a public road. The public road can be asphalt, gravel, earthen and other  roads.
  • Earthen road was built without a lane.
  • Unclassified  road  surface  is  used  for  the  transportation  of  any  kind  and  made  available  to  multiple users (farm, field and forest roads, roads on embankments for flood protection, parks, etc.).

The Spatial Plan for Montenegro 2020 (ref. 427, published 2008) relates road network structure to a hierarchy of land use centres. It describes its road network development concept in terms of:

  • Motorways
  • Expressways
  • Highways
  • Regional roads

This document also identifies a class of “panoramic roads” which “should be treated as a means for tourism development.

The World Bank report on “Improving the management of secondary and tertiary roads in the South East Europe Countries” (ref. 400, 2008) includes statistics on Montenegro’s  roads in terms of primary, secondary and tertiary roads – which means that someone must have measured the length of roads in the country and then classified them. However the report also says that “In almost all the Western Balkan countries, there is no accurate and maintainable road management database covering the secondary and tertiary roads.

The report says that In Montenegro, “the roads are classified into public roads (motorways, highways, regional and tertiary roads  and  streets  in  settlements)  and  uncategorized  roads”. It also includes an interesting classification of “lifeline roads” which it says are roads “without  which  whole  communities  will  either  be  cut  off  entirely,  or  where  the  next alternative route involves a considerable increase in time and cost.”

Summary of classifications for Montenegro

Montenegro 01


(1) Wikipedia’s page on transport in Montenegro says “Current categorization of the roads has become obsolete in some cases, with upgrades of some road sections, and decay of the others. For example, road Kolašin – Mateševo – Andrijevica road, labelled as Main road, is greatly inferior in quality to the Mojkovac – Žabljak road, which is designated as a Regional road”.

 The World Bank report (ref. 400) similarly says

“In  all  the  countries,  classification problems are present with a contingent need for a re-classification exercise. Roads with little traffic and less significant functional importance ought to be classified to a lower level,  or  even  declassified  and  the  converse  is  also  true  i.e.  roads  needing  re-classification  to  a  higher  category  due  to  higher  traffic  levels  or  greater  functional importance.”

(2) SEETO, the “South East Europe Transport Observatory” is a regional transport organization established …. for the development of the Core Regional Transport Network for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. SEETO is working on a comprehensive network development plan. Its December 2012 report (ref. 394) says that

“Categorization of roads in the Western Balkans region was the main topic regarding road infrastructure legislation development in last years as the application of a road hierarchy provides basis for road planning and designing as well as responsibilities for road operation, funding, maintenance and liability”

The document does not say what the classification (~ categorization) is, nor if the same classification is used in all its member countries – although since the report refers to “shared solutions” it could be assumed that SEETO proposes a common road classification for all its member countries. The World Bank report covers much the same group of countries and describes a functional road classification which by implication could be introduced in common to all the countries it covers.

(3) The literature quoted above (SEETO, Spatial d evelopment plan 2020 etc) emphasises the “primary road network” in the sense of roads which are international and longer-distance, higher-speed (and more expensive construction costs). But a road network consists of more than just these types of road, just as road network users consist of more than just long-distance motor traffic. For example, the Spatial development plan says

  • Montenegro rural areas include a group of …. hardly  accessible  rural  areas  in  the  hilly  and  mountainous  areas,  where  forestry  and extensive cattle breeding are typical activities.

And it recommends

  • Establishing  pedestrian  and  bike  lanes  within  settlements  (particularly  in  urban centres) to allow a secure pedestrian and bike traffic within settlements.


  •  Improving roads, such as “panoramic roads” which should be treated as means for tourism development.

Perhaps the main points to be mentioned here are the following:

A complete road classification would include classifications for different users such as cyclists (see for example Brisbane, Australia and its bicycle hierarchy) and pedestrians (see, Hampshire County Council (UK)’s footway classification) – and not just for motor vehicles.

It is easy to conclude, from a hierarchy (or classification) of roads which begins with “primary roads” or “International roads” – that these roads are the most important, and so must have priority when it comes to money. But this is never what a road hierarchy / classification says. Indeed, for Montenegro and its neighbouring countries the World Bank report makes a very clear argument in favour of the importance  of secondary and tertiary roads, even though it agrees that tertiary roads are “at the bottom of the hierarchy, have the lowest speed limits and usually carry the least amount of traffic“. 

The report also includes an interesting classification of “lifeline roads” which are roads “without  which  whole  communities  will  either  be  cut  off  entirely,  or  where  the  next alternative route involves a considerable increase in time and cost” . Surely this means that lifeline roads must be funded before primary roads and motorways.

Design standards for primary roads are often based on the amount of money available to pay for them. For example a motorway does not have to be built for a speed of 120 km/hr. Poland’s technical class 1 road is related to speeds down to 80 km/hr, and see here.


Thanks again to Marija Jevric of the University of Montenegro for sourcing and translating the excerpt from the Law of 2004.


394 – SEETO – Comprehensive network development plan 2013, “Five year multi annual plan 2013, common problems – shared solutions”  (2012)

396 – Montenegro Statistical office: Annual survey on road network 2011 (2012)

400 – World Bank, ” Improving the Management of Secondary and Tertiary Roads in SEE countries” (2012)

427 – Montenegro Ministry of Economic Development, “Spatial plan of Montenegro until 2020” (2008)


About roadnotes

Robert Bartlett is an international consultant with over 30 years of professional experience as a highway and traffic engineer with leading companies and organisations in several countries, including Germany, China (Hong Kong), Qatar and the UK. Specialised in urban studies, transport and the use of GIS, research has included new ideas on subjects such as the study of social justice using GIS, the dimensions of vehicles, and comparative geometrics (highways and transport).
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