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What is a Thoroughfare?

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  • Written By: Debra Durkee
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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A thoroughfare is a road or path that allows individuals to get from one place to another with a variety of types of transportation. Major highways fall under the broad term of thoroughfare, as well as the smaller streets found in towns and villages around the world. The layout of thoroughfares can either make travel through an area quick and fluid or an insufferable headache.

Originally, thoroughfares were simply dirt paths that individuals used. They were traveled mainly on foot and later on horseback, and used mostly for practical reasons such as trade. These primitive roads were often narrow, forged by hand and by the passage of feet. Among the first of the modern thoroughfares — wide, open and paved roads — were built by the Romans.

First conceived in Rome, the idea of constructing these roads expanded as the territory around Rome was conquered, and with submission to Roman rule many areas adopted not only the Romans' way of life but their building methods. Roman roads were often constructed to aid in the transport of troops and goods, and were included as the Romans began building their own cities over and around the ruins of the conquered ones. In many cases, the new thoroughfares followed the old pathways that native peoples had been using for centuries.

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Likewise, many times a modern thoroughfare has been built over the ruins of Roman roads; many of these centuries-old thoroughfares are still visible in parts of Britain and the European continent. Many modern thoroughfares have been adapted to different modes of transportation; with the advent of the automobile, thoroughfares could no longer be as narrow and twisting as they once were.

The automobile brought with it a different set of requirements for planners to consider when laying out routes of the modern thoroughfare. Lane requirements, congestion, and the ease of getting on and off major highways are all elements considered to ensure that thoroughfares not only provide access to all areas, but do so safely. There are several different types of thoroughfares, including highways used for long-distance travel, local streets that provide access to homes and commercial areas, and those roads that join the two.

Maintenance of thoroughfares once fell to those who used them on a regular basis. City planners and construction crews now are often responsible for upkeep of thoroughfares, which can include repairing weather-related damage and the addition of ramps, arteries, and roundabouts in order to make traffic flow more smoothly. There are also times when a thoroughfare can be moved, straightened, or rerouted to meet the changing needs of an area.

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