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Suppose you are driving on the freeway and there is a road that is built on top of the road that you are currently driving on. For example, a transit that takes cars up to their exit or maybe it's just a regular road that was built on top of the freeway. Is there a specific name for such roads? Could I refer to such roads as a "bridge"?

Would it be acceptable to say, "A car was parked underneath the bridge" in such a situation or is there another word for such roads?

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  • Might want to go ahead and accept one of these answers if they seem to do a good job of explaining things for you. I upvoted a couple of the other ones, by the way; there's a pretty good selection here. – Nathan Tuggy Dec 20 '15 at 0:33
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Adding to Nathan's answer, the word you're looking for is overpass (or flyover, if you're in the UK and other Commonwealth countries). For example, in India, where I reside, flyover is what we call such constructions where there is a road that passes over another road.

From the Cambridge Dictionary:

overpass and flyover have the same meaning: ​bridge that ​carries a ​road or ​railway over another ​road.

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    I don't think we call it a flyover in Australian English, though. – jimsug Oct 8 '15 at 9:43
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    But colloquially you could perfectly reasonably call it a "bridge" in this context too. – Lightness Races with Monica Oct 8 '15 at 10:34
  • @jimsug Can concur, they've always been referred to as 'overpasses'. The only times I've heard the term 'flyover' used are when at an air show, or when hearing news from the US about certain states which I am guessing are in the middle of the country. – Damien H Oct 9 '15 at 3:17
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The roads aren't really built on top of other roads, which would imply there's no space in between; they're built over them.

And that's the word that's used in the name: "overpass", a road that passes over.

  • Thank you, that was a perfect description and right on the mark! Although, I contest your preference for "over" instead of "on top", the implication that the phrase "on top" necessarily implies no space is unfounded. Wish I could give you a thumbs up though! – Matt Oct 8 '15 at 5:58
  • @Matt: Ah, here we go. The answer is largely unrelated, but does, I think, clear up the distinction between "over" and "on top of". – Nathan Tuggy Oct 8 '15 at 6:18
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    Concerning "overpass" vs. "bridge": All overpasses are bridges, but not all bridges are overpasses. – AndyT Oct 8 '15 at 10:13
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    @Matt As a native English speaker, I saw the question title and wondered "Why would you build a road directly on the surface of another road?" - "On top" in usages like this imply "on the top". If you said, "The fan is on top of the table", I would expect to find a fan resting on the surface of the table and would not expect you to be talking about a ceiling fan which is "above" the table. – Blackhawk Oct 9 '15 at 13:29
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    @Matt: By studying the way native speakers use those words in general, and seeing which ways they never use them. Same as any linguistic study, really. – Nathan Tuggy Oct 20 '15 at 7:23
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As the other answers say, the more specific terms are "overpass" and "flyover". But it's perfectly reasonable to call such a structure a "bridge". (At least, in British English; the term may be less common in American English and other dialects.)

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    In American English, at least, a "bridge" goes over unpassable terrain, usually either a body of water or a canyon/ravine, but I've never heard it used to describe a road going over another road. That's always an "overpass." – Mason Wheeler Oct 8 '15 at 15:14
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    @Mason It must vary in American English, since my experience is the opposite (Michigan and North Carolina). I almost exclusively hear "bridge" for this. I don't think I've ever heard anyone use the word "overpass." – Reinstate Monica Oct 8 '15 at 15:25
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    In my experience (Northeast US and around LA), an overpass is considered a specific type of bridge and there’d be nothing unusual referring to one as bridge. – KRyan Oct 8 '15 at 20:25
  • In my experience, a bridge is (where not referring to a road passing over a terrain feature) used to refer to straight a road passing over another, where the lower one is in a cutting or valley. Overpass, on the other hand, is used where the upper deck is raised up, and is typically used in junctions where some branches rise up and curve over others. Though overpass need not refer to a road that passes over others; any raised road can be an overpass, since it still passes over the stuff under it. A cloverleaf can contain both overpasses and a bridge. – Dewi Morgan Oct 9 '15 at 6:41
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I feel I should clarify: the road is still called a road, whether it is on a bridge or not. The structure which carries the road can be called a bridge, a flyover or an overpass (as per this question they would all be valid words in this situation). The road itself is continuous, i.e. the road before the bridge, on the bridge and after the bridge is all one road; you do not have a road followed by a bridge followed by a road.

So "A car was parked underneath the bridge" is perfectly valid. "A car was parked underneath the road" would not be easily understood. "A car was parked underneath the bridge which carried the main road" is valid, though it is quite a long phrase!

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If the upper road goes in the same direction (or the 180° opposite direction) as the lower road, it is a "viaduct". For example, the "Alaskan Way Viaduct" in Seattle is a "double-decker freeway". Both decks are actually above ground, because the ground level is a parking lot. Thus, there are "cars parked under the viaduct".

This word "viaduct" is similar to the word "aqueduct". Many Roman "aqueducts" had portions that were elevated, using "viaducts".

Multi-level intersections often include "overpasses" (where one road rises up to cross another); sometimes they include "underpasses" (where one road drops down into a tunnel to cross another road).

In the Seattle area, some freeways are below ground, and have ceilings. Above the ceilings are parks, roads, and/or convention centers. These freeways are said to have "lids", as in the "Mercer Island lid". When traffic is bad, sometimes "cars are stopped under the Mercer Island lid", or "there is stop-and-go traffic from the Mount Baker Tunnel through the Mercer Island lid".

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the western span of the "Bay Bridge" has two levels of traffic. Cars go west on the "upper deck" from Yerba Buena island to San Francisco; cars go east on the "lower deck".

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A specific name for roads that pass over each other is "roads linked up and down". I'm pretty sure that this is British.

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