Highway classification for the Golden Road (Northern Maine)

There is a privately-owned road called the Golden Road in northern Maine that connects the town of Millinocket to the Canadian border, some 96 miles away. It is own by several paper companies that collectively own the bulk of the land in the Maine North Woods. It’s impossibly remote. The US/Canada border crossing at the end of it is only open to logging trucks bound for a sawmill located just on the Canadian side of the border. Two-thirds of this road is unpaved. The logging companies allow public access, as it’s the main thoroughfare through this part of Maine to access the land, not only for timber but also for various kind of recreation.

Recent Slack and Discord discussions on how to classify this road are inconclusive. The road is currently tagged highway=tertiary or highway=secondary for its entire length (the section tagged =secondary can be found here).

I will attempt to relay some of the key arguments made so far:

@Adam_Franco wrote:
It is used to access private cabins on lakes and various areas for outdoor recreation. It is certainly much more “major” than all of the other roads in this part of Maine.

At some point, being a collector for thousands of miles of tracks and connecting logging camps, quarries, and other dispersed infrastructure takes some paper-company roads out of “land access track” and to some other category. Most logging isn’t done from the Golden Road but from its tributaries.

@Friendly_Ghost wrote:
If the road is just there for the transportation of logs, that’s a track .

It doesn’t seem to be a proper part of the road network, just a partly paved track deep into nowhere for logging.

A major/collector track is still a track. We simply don’t have tags to distinguish major and minor tracks. I also doubt any other map makers have made a distinction here.

User dmich9 on Discord wrote:
Would it not be a minor/unclassified with surface gravel? It is a small road allowing access to all the track roads and their subsequent plots

@bhousel wrote:
it sounds pretty highway=track to me

@ezekielf wrote:
Looks like there are plenty of other non track roads branching off it too. For example. If the Golden Road were to be downgraded to track then those all probably should be as well. It would be weird to have dangling stretches of higher classification roads in the middle of nowhere.

secondary feels like too high a classification to me. tertiary seems like it may be appropriate given role this road appears to play in this extremely rural area. I’d say it should at least be unclassified . track seems too minor to me.

Based on this discussion, the possible options from low to high to classify this road are track, unclassified, or tertiary. The option that changes the status quo the least would be to downgrade the current secondary sections down to tertiary so that it would at least be consistent from end to end. However, there are strong arguments for lower classifications as well.

Although the two are somewhat related, the classification of the road is not determined by the quality of the road construction. The classification is determined by the importance of the road in the transportation network in relation to other roads in the area.

Given the number of track and unclassified roads that are dependent on this road, it should not be anything less than unclassified and tertiary would be appropriate.

The road shouldn’t have a lower classification than roads that depend on it, which would imply at least tertiary. The only road that branches off of Golden Road with a classification higher than tertiary is a relatively short secondary segment of County Road 490. But maybe it makes sense to reduce that segment to tertiary too.


Hahaha, an “impossibly remote” 96 miles; how delightfully quaint to my Canadian sensibilities. :sweat_smile:

Coincidentally I’ve recently been making minor fixes along ~1100 km of road here in Alberta we call the Forestry Trunk Road (FTR), which seems analogous to this one in Maine. It originally served primarily as a forestry access road, but over time morphed into a relatively important cross-province/state connector. The FTR is now composed of numbered “primary” and “secondary” Alberta provincial highways but is still largely unpaved and still carries logging truck traffic. However, it is also used by other industries (e.g. oil & gas exploration/extraction), recreational users (campers, hunters and the like), airfields, residents (there are some houses along the road!) and by people who’d just rather take the route through the forests of the eastern slopes of the Rockies to get from point A to point B. (I myself recently drove ~190 km of it simply because I decided on a whim to go that way. :grin:)

The Golden Road looks to be built on a well-compacted gravel bed wide enough for two-way traffic and smooth enough for regular passenger car use, and is a central spine upon which 96 miles worth of smaller roads branch off. It looks like a local editor fixed the highway=residential tags from the original import and changed it to (mostly) highway=secondary over a decade ago, and it’s mostly been that way ever since except where others have “downgraded” it to tertiary, unclassified or track.

It seems perfectly reasonable to me that tertiary or secondary would be appropriate, while highway=track seems categorically wrong:

This does not look like a track to me. Physical characteristics of the road’s construction don’t solely dictate how it ought to be categorized, but this looks far, far more substantial than any “track road”. What also matters is the importance to the road network, and while this road may be “in the middle of nowhere” that does not by itself mean that the road is unimportant.

Is it secondary? Tertiary? Unclassified? I think a point that ought not get lost in discussion is with regard to “consistency”:

Why does it need to be consistent from end to end? Sections of it should be tagged appropriate to their level of importance. It’s perfectly plausible that there are parts of it that are more important than others. It looks like there is another (paved) road that parallels the Golden Road from Millinocket toward the northwest, before splitting off to go north to Baxter State Park. As such it makes sense to me that the first dozen or so miles from Millinocket aren’t as important as the rest of the road, and the further one gets from Millinocket the more important the Golden Road may become. (By comparison portions of the FTR are tagged tertiary, secondary, and even primary!)

Yes, that’s a good point. What I was specifically objecting to is the abrupt change to highway=secondary in approximately this location. The Golden Road is certainly less important than Millinocket Road / Baxter Park Road around this location. So I think at least from the point where the Golden Road diverges from the road into Baxter State Park to the Canadian border, it should probably have a consistent classification.

what’s about this 670 km long road north of Québec, classified as secondary ?

Like in Alberta and Maine, we have thes Resources - Forestry roads in Québec With roles similar to the description from hoserab. And we classify as secondary the more important ones in the network of forestry roads, plus add information about the surface of the road. We need to be well informed before we circulate in such roads by car. What is missing is a tag that would describe the particular context. In Québec, the overweight trucks that carry forestry resources have the priority and we should be equipped with a walky talky and signal our presence. , These roads are also quite remote in general and quite demanding on cars and tires ! Personnaly, I do add the tag [priority=overweight_truck] plus [maxspeed=70]. See for example Relation: ‪Route forestière 461 (25)‬ (‪6602955‬) | OpenStreetMap

A track or unclassified road is not for long distance roads that intersect multitude of roads. Since the Golden road deserves more then minor roads, I would classify it as secondary and classify the major roads that intersect it as tertiary.

Fair point; the transition point does seem rather arbitrary. From the change history of the segments in question it seems that the discrepancy was caused by a contributor whose profile has since been deleted who “downgraded” much of it to unclassified about a decade ago, and others “fixed” it by “upgrading” up to tertiary rather than secondary.

Secondary seems appropriate to me given the way the Alberta FTR is tagged. At first blush the Golden Road looks to have that same level of importance. (EDIT: I “downgraded” portions of the FTR from primary to secondary only a couple days ago.)

Seulement 670 km? Essayez plus fort, Québec. :stuck_out_tongue:

The one thing to remember about the Golden Road is that it isn’t a through road. In other words, you can’t just jump into your personal vehicle and drive to Canada. The border crossing is only open to logging trucks to access the sawmill on the Canadian side, and even then, only when specifically arranged between the paper company and the border authorities. So it should not be thought of as a through road but rather as a terminal road, which I do think somewhat diminishes the importance of the road.

If you could drive this road from Millinocket to Quebec City, then it would certainly justify a more substantial highway= class, although it would still be a longer (in time, by about 30 minutes) drive than the more circuitous route of Maine Route 6 / US 201. But that combination of Maine 6 / US 201 runs over =primary and =secondary. So I think it would be a hard sell to call the Golden Road higher than =secondary if it went through to Canada. Since it terminates before the border for everyone but pre-arranged logging trucks, it’s reasonable to demote it lower than =secondary rather than to show it as part of the interconnected =secondary and above road network.

Secondary or tertiary: meh, close enough either way. I think my verbose, overarching point above was mostly “I wouldn’t tag it highway=track, to me that seems silly and doesn’t fit at all”. :upside_down_face:

1 Like

I looks like there are several tiny communities in this region:

If traveling from Millenocket to any of these places, it appears the Golden Road is the way to go. So although it doesn’t serve as a through road to Canada, it does serve some minor destinations before that. It also looks like the Northern Road connects up with the Golden road to make a through route that connects back to the Maine state highway system.