National Standards for Traffic Control Devices; the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways; Request for Comment
National Standards for Traffic Control Devices; the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways; Request for Comment
Gregory G. Nadeau
Federal Highway Administration
December 22, 2015
[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 245 (Tuesday, December 22, 2015)]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-32107]
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Highway Administration
23 CFR Part 655
[FHWA Docket No. FHWA-2015-0028]
National Standards for Traffic Control Devices; the Manual on
Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways; Request for
AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Department of
ACTION: Request for Comments (RFC).
SUMMARY: The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and
Highways (MUTCD) is incorporated in our regulations, approved by FHWA,
and recognized as the national standard for traffic control devices
used on all streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads open to
public travel. This document asks for responses to a series of
questions regarding the future direction of the MUTCD. Specific topic
areas include target audience/intended user, content and organization,
process for introducing new traffic control devices, and frequency of
DATES: Comments must be received on or before February 18, 2016.
ADDRESSES: Mail or hand deliver comments to the U.S. Department of
Transportation, Dockets Management Facility, Room W12-140, 1200 New
Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590, or fax comments to (202) 493-
2251. Alternatively, comments may be submitted to the Federal
eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov. All comments must
include the docket number that appears in the heading of this document.
All comments received will be available for examination and copying at
the above address from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday,
except Federal holidays. Those desiring notification of receipt of
comments must include a self-addressed, stamped postcard or you may
print the acknowledgment page that appears after submitting comments
electronically. Anyone is able to search the electronic form of all
comments in any one of our dockets by the name of the individual
submitting the comment (or signing the comment, if submitted on behalf
of an association, business, or labor union). Anyone may review DOT's
complete Privacy Act Statement in the Federal Register published on
April 11, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 70, Pages 19477-78).
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions about the program
discussed herein, contact Mr. Kevin Sylvester, MUTCD Team Leader, FHWA
Office of Transportation Operations, (202) 366-2161, or via email at
Kevin.Sylvester@dot.gov. For legal questions, please contact Mr.
William Winne, Office of the Chief Counsel, (202) 366-1397, or via
email at email@example.com. Office hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30
p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
Electronic Access and Filing
You may submit or retrieve comments online through the Federal
eRulemaking portal at: http://www.regulations.gov. The Web site is
available 24 hours each day, 365 days each year. Please follow the
instructions. Electronic submission and retrieval help and guidelines
are available under the help section of the Web site. An electronic
copy of this document may also be downloaded from the Office of the
Federal Register's home page at: http://www.archives.gov and the
Government Printing Office's Web page at: http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara. Anyone is able to search the electronic form of all comments in
any of our dockets by the name of the individual submitting the comment
(or signing the comment, if submitted on behalf of an association,
business, or labor union). You may review DOT's complete Privacy Act
Statement in the Federal Register published on April 11, 2000 (Volume
65, Number 70, Pages 19477-78), or you may visit http://DocketsInfo.dot.gov.
Purpose of This Notification
The FHWA is interested in planning for future editions of the MUTCD
\1\ that will reflect the growing number and application of traffic
control devices, changes in technology not only for traffic control
devices, but for viewing content in the MUTCD, and developing a
structure for the MUTCD that is efficient and easy to use. The FHWA
initiated the public comment process by publishing an RFC at 78 FR 2347
(Docket ID: FHWA-2012-0118) on January 11, 2013, that included two
options for restructuring the MUTCD and several questions regarding
content and public use of the MUTCD. The FHWA's response to the
comments, issued June 17, 2013 at 78 FR 36132 (Docket ID: FHWA-2012-
0118-0187), indicated that over one half of the commenters recommended
postponing any action to restructure the manual pending results from
the ongoing National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP)
strategic planning effort.\2\ That effort is now complete.
\1\ The 2009 edition of the MUTCD can be accessed at the
following Internet Web site: http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/.
\2\ NCHRP 20-07/Task 323, Developing a Long-Range Strategic Plan
for the MUTCD, can be accessed at the following Internet Web site:
The purpose of this notice is to solicit comments from users of the
MUTCD about the direction of future editions of the MUTCD. This notice
includes a set of specific questions for which FHWA requests comments.
Comments and input may be offered on any part of this notification.
The MUTCD is incorporated by reference within Federal regulations
at 23 CFR part 655, approved by FHWA, and recognized as the national
standard for traffic control devices used on all public roads. The
MUTCD was incorporated by reference into the Code of Federal
Regulations beginning with the publication of the 1971 edition. There
have been 10 editions of the MUTCD, beginning with the first edition in
1935. The current MUTCD is the 2009 Edition, incorporating Revisions 1
and 2, dated May 2012 and is available to the public at http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/kno_2009r1r2.htm.
Over the last several years, the transportation community has
expressed concern over several issues related to the MUTCD: (1) Size,
(2) complexity in finding information, (3) amount/type of information
in the MUTCD, and (4) timeframe required for new traffic control
devices or applications to be incorporated. To begin to address these
issues, FHWA published an RFC at 78 FR 2347 (Docket ID: FHWA-2012-0118)
on January 11, 2013, requesting comment on a potential restructuring of
the MUTCD into two documents: The MUTCD and an Applications Supplement
(herein referred to as ``Restructuring RFC''). The FHWA's response to
the comments, issued June 17, 2013, at 78 FR 36132 (Docket ID: FHWA-
2012-0118-0187), indicated that given the lack of support from the
MUTCD user community, FHWA would not proceed with restructuring the
MUTCD into two documents. As discussed in the response to comments,
more than 90 percent of the docket letters were either against
splitting the MUTCD into two separate documents (approximately 56
percent of responses), or recommended postponing any action to split
the manual pending results from the ongoing NCHRP strategic planning
effort (approximately 34 percent of responses), which was expected to
be available in January 2014. The strategic planning effort was to
address many issues that would impact future MUTCD content and
structure, including consideration of an MUTCD that would consist of
more than one volume. In addition to requesting that FHWA wait for the
results of the NCHRP strategic planning effort, many State and local
agencies, associations, and consultants suggested that if a decision
were to be made to restructure the MUTCD in any significant way, it
would be critical for FHWA to partner with stakeholders to develop
content for a restructured MUTCD.
The NCHRP task to which the commenters were referring, NCHRP 20-07/
Task 323, is now complete. The objective of the task was to develop a
long-range Vision and Strategic Plan for the MUTCD. The plan was
delivered to the American Association of State Highway and
Transportation Officials' Highway Subcommittee on Traffic Engineering,
which approved it by ballot, and then to the National Committee on
Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) where that organization
adopted the plan (herein referred to as the Vision and Strategic Plan)
at its January 2014 meeting.\3\ The Vision and Strategic Plan contains
a discussion of opinions, challenges, needs and questions followed by a
presentation of a vision for the MUTCD of the mid-2030s. To achieve
that vision, the document includes a strategic plan for transitioning
from the current edition to future editions through a series of
incremental changes. With the NCHRP effort now complete, and in
response to comments from the Restructuring RFC, FHWA believes it is
now appropriate for a wider audience of MUTCD users to provide comments
to FHWA on the direction of future editions of the MUTCD. It is
important to note that FHWA is not seeking comments on the Vision and
Plan document itself. Nor is FHWA seeking comment on any specific
proposals for change.
\3\ The NCUTCD's January 9, 2014, 20-Year Vision and Strategic
Plan for the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices can be viewed
at the following Internet Web site: http://www.ncutcd.org/doc/MUTCD-20%20Year%20Vision%20NCUTCD%20Appvd%201-9-14%20FINAL.pdf.
Concurrent with this effort, FHWA is preparing a Notice of Proposed
Amendments (NPA) for the next edition of the MUTCD. The publication
date of the NPA is not yet known. Depending on the nature and extent of
comments submitted for this RFC, FHWA may incorporate some of the
suggestions in the next edition of the MUTCD. More importantly, FHWA is
looking to begin planning for MUTCD editions further into the future
with the comments submitted for this RFC.
As discussed above, the public may submit comments online through
the Federal eRulemaking portal at: http://www.regulations.gov. In an
effort to streamline the process for organizing and reviewing docket
comments, the public is invited to submit comments in a spreadsheet
that has been specifically developed for this notice. The spreadsheet
is available for review and download on http://www.regulations.gov
under the docket number listed in the heading of this document.
Commenters who wish to use the spreadsheet for their comments are
encouraged to download and fill in the spreadsheet, then upload the
completed file as indicated in comment instructions. Alternatively,
commenters may submit their comments in the comment box and/or via
uploading a different file.
Topic Area 1: Target Audience/Intended User
Over the years, the MUTCD has expanded in size, due in part to the
belief that the MUTCD needs to contain information that is appropriate
for all its users. The size and complexity of the MUTCD have
significantly increased primarily because of an expansion of the number
of devices included in the MUTCD and the desire to provide more
specifics in conveying the intent of the language in order to avoid
uncertainty. The first edition of the MUTCD, published in 1935, had 166
pages, whereas the current MUTCD contains 820 pages of technical
provisions. As discussed in the Restructuring RFC in 2012, FHWA is
interested in examining ways to simplify and streamline the MUTCD in a
manner that is most user-friendly, while maintaining the appropriate
amount of information.
The MUTCD is used by a wide audience, from State, local, and
consulting traffic engineers, to traffic control device technicians,
and to some extent, the public. The Vision and Strategic Plan suggests
that the size and the complexity of the MUTCD may be reduced by
targeting the MUTCD to a more specific audience or organizing it to
provide information for different types of users. While FHWA
understands that the MUTCD has gained a wide audience, writing or
organizing the MUTCD accordingly may be cumbersome and may not have the
intended result of simplifying the MUTCD. The MUTCD is currently
designed as an engineering reference manual.
Topic Area 1 Questions
1A. Should MUTCD content continue to be written with a traffic
engineer as the intended audience?
Topic Area 2: Simplifying and Reorganizing the MUTCD
As indicated above, FHWA previously issued the Restructuring RFC to
identify potential options for simplifying the MUTCD. Comments were not
in favor of splitting the MUTCD into two separate documents and many
suggested waiting on the results of the Vision and Strategic Plan
before determining whether or not the MUTCD should be restructured in a
In addition to simplifying, FHWA is exploring several of the
reorganizing suggestions received from the Restructuring RFC. The
current structure of the MUTCD is based on the type of device and the
specialized application of devices. The 2009 edition includes Parts 1
through 4 for types of devices and Parts 5 through 9 for specialized
applications of devices. This has been the basic structure of the MUTCD
since its inception. In the 2000 edition, FHWA added the current
headings of content (Standard, Guidance, Option, and Support
paragraphs). The headings provide a clear level of mandate associated
with specific content. However, this division by level of mandate can
create challenges in providing text that reads well and flows together.
In order to provide greater flexibility in the MUTCD, the Vision
and Strategic Plan recommends an additional level of mandate that would
include two versions of Standard statements rather than one. Both types
would be requirements, but one level would relate to uniformity while
the other would relate to consistency. The uniformity Standard would
require the same action in every case and would not allow for deviation
based on site conditions. The consistency Standard would require the
same action in every case unless a deviation was warranted to
accommodate local conditions. The meanings of Guidance (recommended)
and Option (permissible) provisions would remain unchanged. The FHWA
believes that this concept is not viable for several reasons. First, it
would tend to make the MUTCD more complex rather than less complex.
Second, because both conditions would be requirements, it is not likely
that any legal distinction could be made between the two. The
provisions of the current MUTCD do not preclude the application of
Coordination within the MUTCD regarding the use of related devices
at a single location is often limited. An MUTCD user that is trying to
make decisions regarding aspects of traffic control devices used at a
specific location might need to reference several different portions of
the MUTCD to determine the optimal combination of devices and device
features. For example, to review all provisions related to crosswalks,
a reader could potentially need to consider Parts 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and
9, depending on the extent to which the design involves the basic
devices of signs, markings, and signals; and specialized applications
such as temporary traffic control, school zones, rail grade crossings,
and shared-use paths. Cross referencing within the MUTCD is usually
provided as appropriate to direct users to related provisions in other
Sections or Parts of the MUTCD.
The tendency for future editions of the MUTCD is likely to expand
the amount of content, potentially exacerbating the difficulty in using
and finding information in the MUTCD. The FHWA is seeking comment to
assess options for structuring the MUTCD to make it easier to use. The
following are potential options for simplifying and reorganizing the
a. Maintain the current structure and format of the MUTCD.
b. Reorganize the MUTCD content. Potential reorganization
i. Traffic control devices by application. Parts 2, 3, and 4 in the
current MUTCD would be combined to address applications such as urban
intersections, rural highways, and collector streets. These
applications would address the use of signs, markings, and signals
within that context. Parts 5-9 of the current MUTCD currently use this
approach. Such a structure would provide most of the content needed for
a given application in a consolidated location within the MUTCD.
ii. By level of mandate (e.g., Standard and Guidance). Separating
Standard, Guidance, Option, and Support provisions within each section
may help MUTCD users find information more
easily. For example, more experienced MUTCD users may only need to
review specific requirements and would want to review only the Standard
and Guidance provisions.
iii. By MUTCD user (e.g., field personnel and engineers). Field
personnel typically focus on the field location, installation, and
inspection of traffic control devices. Engineers and technicians
typically focus on the overall design, operations, and context of a
traffic control device in relation to the transportation facilities and
other traffic control devices. Consolidating provisions related to user
types may simplify the MUTCD for those individuals.
c. Relocate some of the content from the MUTCD into a companion
document that has a similar structure as the MUTCD. The companion
document would not contain requirements and could be revised without
the rulemaking process. This restructuring would take place in a future
edition, not the next edition.
i. The restructured MUTCD could include traffic control device
standards that do not change such as the meaning, appearance, and other
ii. The companion document could include traffic control device
guidelines that relate to selection, location, operation, and
maintenance of devices. The companion document would need to be
developed through a consensus-building process that involves
appropriate stakeholders with expertise in the use of traffic control
devices. The companion document could be revised more frequently than
the MUTCD, because it would not be subject to rulemaking.
Topic Area 2 Questions
2A. In future editions, should FHWA strive to reduce the amount of
explanatory language included in the MUTCD?
2B. If so, what types of explanatory language should be removed
from the MUTCD?
2C. If explanatory/supplementary information is removed, should it
be retained in a separate document?
2D. What organizational structure should be considered for future
MUTCDs? Potential alternatives include:
a. Current structure.
b. Application information (e.g., urban intersections, rural
highways, and collector streets).
c. By type of information (design and applications, installation,
2E. If a different format is not appropriate, what potential
alternatives/tools would help users more easily find information?
2F. As we move toward more electronic use of the MUTCD through
computers, tablets, and handheld devices, what additional electronic
formats or tools would be useful?
Topic Area 3: MUTCD Edition Frequency
There have been 10 editions of the MUTCD (1935, 1942, 1948, 1961,
1971, 1978, 1988, 2000, 2003, and 2009). Timing of revisions of
individual editions has varied, with most editions having a limited
number of revisions between editions.
Changes to the MUTCD are made through the rulemaking process
because the manual is regulatory in nature. Major changes to the MUTCD
are incorporated and added through the publication of new editions of
the manual. Occasionally, there is a need to initiate special
rulemakings between editions of the MUTCD to incorporate important
content without waiting for the next edition of the MUTCD. These are
called ``Revisions'' and are incorporated into the official MUTCD on
FHWA's MUTCD Web site. In between editions or revisions of the MUTCD,
new traffic control devices or applications can be approved for use
through the official experimentation and interim approval processes, as
described in Section 1A.10 of the MUTCD.\4\ Information regarding these
experimentations and interim approvals is also posted on FHWA's MUTCD
\4\ Section 1A.10 of the MUTCD can be viewed at the following
Internet Web link: http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/pdfs/2009r1r2/mutcd2009r1part1.pdf.
Developing technical content for inclusion in the MUTCD is a
deliberative process. Material associated with new traffic control
devices is based on laboratory and/or in-service research evaluations
that consider the human factors and performance aspects of the device,
which can take several years. The results are then used to develop
technical provisions related to that device that can then be considered
for a rulemaking activity to amend the MUTCD. The rulemaking process
involves publishing a proposed revision for public comment, analyzing
the public comments submitted to the docket, and then publishing a
final rule that addresses the public comments. For a new edition of the
MUTCD, this process typically takes approximately 2 years from the
publication of the proposed rulemaking document to the final rule.
After the final rule, States have up to 2 years to adopt the new MUTCD
or their State equivalent. Given this timeline, it would be impractical
to publish new editions of the MUTCD with significant new content at
intervals less frequent than 6 years. The next edition of the MUTCD is
currently targeted for publication in late 2018, representing 9 years
between new editions.\5\
\5\ Revisions 1 and 2 to the 2009 MUTCD were published in May
Currently, 18 States adopt the national MUTCD as their standard,
without any supplement. Ten States develop their own MUTCD based on the
national MUTCD. Twenty-two States and the District of Columbia and
Puerto Rico develop supplements to the national MUTCD.
Developing supplements to the national MUTCD and developing State-
specific MUTCDs is likely to be costly to the States and introduces a
potential for conflicts with the national MUTCD. State agency resources
are already provided to review and comment on national MUTCD rulemaking
and many State agencies support their staff member participation in the
NCUTCD meetings and activities. As a result, FHWA would like to better
understand why States develop their own MUTCDs or supplements. The FHWA
believes that a better understanding of why States develop their own
MUTCDs could better inform the development of future editions of the
national MUTCD. It should be noted that FHWA is not discouraging States
from developing their own MUTCDs or supplements.
The FHWA is interested in comments related to the timing of new
editions of the MUTCD and intermediate revisions of the MUTCD between
editions, as well as the information about the development of State
MUTCDs and supplements.
3A. If the minimum practical interval between editions is 6 to 8
years, should FHWA promulgate rulemakings to issue one or more
revisions that are focused on individual traffic control devices
between new editions of the MUTCD?
3B. What about the national MUTCD or State law makes it necessary
for some States to develop their own MUTCDs or supplements?
3C. Is there anything in the national MUTCD that could be changed
to reduce the burden for States to review, revise, prepare, and adopt
their own State MUTCD or supplement?
Authority: 23 U.S.C. 101(a), 104, 109(d), 114(a), 217, 315, and
402(a); 23 CFR 1.32; and, 49 CFR 1.85.
Issued on: December 10, 2015.
Gregory G. Nadeau,
Administrator, Federal Highway Administration.
[FR Doc. 2015-32107 Filed 12-21-15; 8:45 am]
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