Elements of a modern asphalt road.—© Merriam-Webster Inc.

Traveled way on which people, animals, or wheeled vehicles move. The earliest roads developed from paths and trails and appeared with the invention of wheeled vehicles about 3000 BC. Road systems were developed to facilitate trade in early civilizations; the first major road extended 1,500 mi (2,400 km) from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea and was used as early as 3500 BC. The Romans used roads to maintain control of their empire, with over 53,000 mi (85,000 km) of roadways extending across its lands; Roman construction techniques and design remained the most advanced until the late 1700s. In the early 19th century the invention of macadam road construction provided a quick and durable method for building roads, and asphalt and concrete also began to be used. Motorized traffic in the 20th century led to the limited-access highway, the first of which was a parkway in New York City (1925). Superhighways also appeared in Italy and Germany in the 1930s. In the 1950s the U.S. interstate highway system was inaugurated to link the country's major cities.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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