Road classification in Portugal


Portugal has a population of some 10.5 million persons and an area of 92,212 Mainland Portugal is divided into 18 districts  while the archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira are as autonomous regions. There are 308 municipalities, subdivided into 4260 civil parishes. (wikipedia

 Local organisations

There are several organisations which are involved in the development of roads in Portugal. At the national level there are InIR, the Institute of Road Infrastructure, and Estradas de Portugal; at the regional level there are the CCDR (commissions for coordination and development); and at the local level there are the municipalities, such as the municipality of Leiria. Several of them provide notes on road classification, so some more details about them would be appropriate.

 InIR, Institute of Road Infrastructure

The Institute of Road Infrastructure, IP is a public institute integrated indirect administration of the State, endowed with administrative autonomy. Its main mission is to supervise and oversee the management and operation of the road network and ensure the realization of the National Road Plan.

 Estradas de Portugal

This company was established in 2004 and deals with the administration of highways in Portugal. It is owned entirely by the Portuguese State. Its mission is to provide financing, maintenance, operation, improvement and widening of roads that make up the National Road Network and secondly, the conception, design, construction, financing, maintenance, operation, improvement and widening of roads that make up the Future National Road Network.

 Commissions for coordination and development (CCDR)

“The CCDR are the decentralised arms of the Ministry of Environment, Spatial Planning and Regional Development, and serve as a mangerial regional level as there is no elected regional government in mainland Portugal. The responsibilities of the CCDR are complex and demanding, including regional spatial planning, environmental issues, regional development and support to local governments.  Their task is the implementation of measures for the development of their area” ( from OECD territorial reviews, Portugal 2008). The CCDR were established in 2003; presently there are five of them.


This is the CCDR for the North region of Portugal. The North region has 3.7 million inhabitants and a density of population that is 1.5 times above the average for mainland Portugal and the European Union. The dimension of the Greater Porto area, in what concerns population, economic and communication infrastructures, is noteworthy given that it encompasses a potential market of more than three million people living less than one hour in travel time from the area.

 Municipality of Leiria

Leiria is a city in Leiria Municipality in the Centro Region of Portugal. It is the capital of Leiria District. The city proper has 50,200 inhabitants and the entire municipality has nearly 130,000 (wikipedia).

Road classification

Wikipedia has a good page on roads in Portugal (see here). It explains that the country has a National Roadway Plan, which is split into a fundamental  network and a complementary network. Motorways in Portugal form a “motorway network” ; the motorway links are part of either the fundamental or the complementary network.

The classes of roads and road networks in Portugal are shown in the following table. The information is based on the 2000 National Roadway Plan from the Wikipedia page has been extended with classes quoted by the the CCDR-N (ref. 516) and the Municipality of Leira (ref. 515). Leiria includes municipal ways (Caminhos Municipais) and neighbourhood ways (Caminhos Vicinais) in its classification.

Portugal 21

InIR (ref. 523)gives details of Portugal’s motorway network, and splits “motorways” into a number of sub-classses. It suggests appropriate speeds for each class:

Portugal 22

The CCDR-N and the Municipality of Leiria also describe a functional classification for roads, and they too suggest appropriate speeds for each class:

Portugal 23

Other classifications

International routes – Portugal is crossed by some Euro Routes (wikipedia) for motorised traffic and by one proposed European cycle route (EV 1, the “Atlantic Coast Route”, see here and here).  For pedestrians there are also international and regional  paths (trails?) such as the E9 from Portugal to Estonia (see here) and the regional, Algarve Way (see here).

Suggestions from the CCDR-N – The text of the CCDR-N document refers to classifying roads in various terms (see e.g. pages 6, 8, 21) such as:

  •  circulation function
  • access function
  • urban, rural split
  • administrative
  • Geometric
  • types of user (e.g. residents, emergency services)

The CCDR-N also suggest that the number of classes for an urban road network should depend on the complexity and size of the urban space.

Street classifications – In his 2012 paper on street classification, Paolo Ribeiro of the University of Minho (ref. 446) asks

  • Should  issues  associated  with  urban  life activities  that  take  place  in  the  surrounding space  to  the  carriageway  be  included  in  a street classification?

The paper goes on to discuss streets characterized (classified?) considering the following variables (which include):

  • Place function: height of buildings; width of streets, ratio between the width of the street and height  of  buildings (etc) and
  • Link  Function:  volume  of  daily  traffic, travel  speed  (V85);  and,  the  ratio  between  the movement of people and motorized traffic.


Roads are transport infrastructure for land-based transport. Land-based transport covers not only motor vehicles but pedestrians and bicycles as well, so arguably

  • A national road classification should include terms (classes) for pedestrian and cycle routes. Other countries have seen some steps made towards this. Examples include authorities in Australia, England and Nepal.
  • A national road hierarchy should include separate hierarchies for motor vehiceles, pedestrian routes and cycle routes
  • A national road hierarchy should cover all road levels, from international routes down to municipal ways.


Thanks for the tips, to  Leonor Martins (via LinkedIn) and Goncalo Costa (via ResearchGate)


446 – Paolo Ribeiro, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Minho, “A new perspective on street classification towards sustainability” (Recent researches in environment, energy systems and sustainability, WSEAS 2012)

515 – Leiria, “Organização da rede viária no concelho de Leiria” (2004)


523 – InIR, “Auto-Estradas, Características Técnicas”, (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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