[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 229 (Tuesday, November 30, 2010)]
[Notices]
[Pages 74128-74131]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-29587]


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Highway Administration

[FHWA Docket No. FHWA-2010-0159-]


Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) Compliance 
Dates

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice; Request for comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: This notice requests comments on compliance dates for highway 
agencies to upgrade their existing non-compliant traffic control 
devices to comply with certain requirements established in the Manual 
on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). This notice asks for 
responses to a series of questions about compliance dates, their 
benefits and economic impacts, and other related issues.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before January 14, 2011.

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), or you may visit 
http://dms.dot.gov.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions about the program 
discussed herein, contact Mr. Hari Kalla, MUTCD Team Leader, FHWA 
Office of Operations, (202) 366-5915, or via e-mail at 
hari.kalla@dot.gov. For legal questions, please contact Mr. Raymond 
Cuprill, Senior Attorney Advisor, FHWA Office of the Chief Counsel, 
(202) 366-1392, or via e-mail at raymond.cuprill@dot.gov. Business 
hours for the FHWA are from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., e.t., Monday through 
Friday, except Federal holidays.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

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. 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 
Office of the Federal Register's home page at: http://www.archives.gov/federal_register and the Government Printing Office's Web page at: 
http://www.gpoaccess.gov.

Background

    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. When new 
provisions are adopted in a new edition or revision of the MUTCD, any 
new or reconstructed traffic control devices being installed after 
adoption are generally required to be in compliance with the new 
provisions. Existing devices in the field that do not meet the new 
MUTCD provisions are expected to be upgraded by highway agencies over 
time to meet the new provisions via a systematic upgrading process, but 
there are no specific dates for required completion of the upgrades. 
The Code of Federal Regulations, at 23 CFR 655.603(d)(1), authorizes 
FHWA to establish target compliance dates for compliance of particular 
existing devices. The FHWA establishes such compliance dates via the 
Federal rulemaking process.
    The Final Rule for the 2009 edition of the MUTCD \1\ established 12 
new specific compliance dates in Table I-2 for upgrading existing 
devices to comply with certain new provisions adopted in that edition. 
Table I-2 in the 2009 MUTCD also included 46 other compliance dates 
that had not been reached by 2009 that were established in previous 
Final Rules in 2000,\2\ 2003,\3\ and 2007 \4\ for new provisions 
adopted in those Final Rules. The FHWA is aware of concerns on the part 
of some State and local highway agencies about the potential impacts of 
MUTCD compliance dates in the current economic downturn, which has 
significantly reduced the resources available to such agencies.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \1\ 74 FR 66732, December 16, 2009.
    \2\ 65 FR 78923, December 18, 2000.
    \3\ 68 FR 65496, November 20, 2003.
    \4\ 72 FR 72574, December 21, 2007.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Purpose of This Notice

    The FHWA is interested in examining the issues of the safety 
benefits provided by traffic control device uniformity and the economic 
hardships to State and local governments that might result from 
specific compliance dates for upgrading some non-compliant existing 
devices.

[[Page 74129]]

    The purpose of this notice is to present a general discussion of 
issues related to MUTCD compliance dates, to present a discussion of 
existing compliance dates for seven specific 2009 MUTCD provisions, and 
to request comments and input on those issues and dates. This notice 
also includes a series of specific questions for which the FHWA 
requests input on each.
    While there are questions presented on specific aspects of MUTCD 
compliance dates, comments and input may be offered on any part of this 
notice.
    The FHWA is seeking comments from all interested parties to help 
FHWA in further examining these issues and evaluating potential future 
alternative courses of action, including additional rulemaking.

Discussion of General Compliance Date Issues

    The FHWA has established MUTCD compliance dates for upgrading 
existing non-compliant devices based on what it believes to be a 
reasonable balance of the safety benefits afforded by uniformity of 
traffic control devices and the economic costs to agencies to achieve 
compliance. Highway agencies are allowed to use systematic upgrading 
programs (without specific compliance dates) to upgrade their existing 
devices in the field to meet the vast majority of all new MUTCD 
provisions. For example, the 2009 MUTCD requires that the lettering on 
street name signs shall be composed of combination of lower-case 
letters with initial upper case letters. However, there is no specific 
compliance date for replacement of existing Street Name signs that use 
all capital lettering. Existing Street Name signs using all capital 
letters can remain in place until they need to be replaced due to end 
of service life or some other reason. As a result, agencies do not 
incur any additional cost to meet this MUTCD requirement. In addition, 
FHWA has established specific compliance dates predominantly based on 
the useful service life of devices. This approach enables highway 
agencies to defer upgrading non-compliant devices until the device 
wears out, is damaged or destroyed, or is replaced due to other events 
such as highway reconstruction, thus minimizing economic impacts.
    In the 2009 MUTCD, specific compliance dates were established for 
only 12 of the hundreds of new provisions that were adopted with that 
new edition. In those 12 cases, FHWA determined that the safety 
benefits that the traveling public would derive from those new 
provisions were so critical that compliance of existing devices in the 
field potentially prior to the end of their service lives was 
necessary. Traffic control device upgrades are eligible for use of 
Federal-aid highway funds, thus mitigating the impacts on State and 
local highway agencies.
    The FHWA understands that there are many competing demands on State 
and local government resources, particularly to highway and public 
works agencies, that State and local governments must balance with 
highway safety and traffic control device uniformity in allocating 
their limited resources. The FHWA also believes that traffic control 
device uniformity is important to the safety of not only of motor 
vehicles, but also of pedestrians, bicyclists, and other road users, 
and as such this uniformity provides important benefits to society. The 
MUTCD was originally developed in 1930s because of the consensus among 
State and local governments, organizations representing motorists, and 
many safety-related organizations, that traffic control device 
uniformity was essential to reducing crashes and the deaths, injuries, 
and property damage that results from crashes. The 1966 Highway Safety 
Act \5\ further recognized the safety benefits of traffic control 
device uniformity by legislating the change in status of the MUTCD from 
a recommended practice with voluntary compliance to a national standard 
with mandatory compliance.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \5\ Public Law 89-564, 80 Stat. 731.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Further, FHWA believes that the establishment of specific 
compliance dates for limited numbers of new MUTCD requirements is 
effective in achieving uniformity for those critical items. 
Requirements with specific compliance dates receive much greater 
attention and upgrading action by highway agencies because of the 
potential for tort liability and the potential loss of Federal-aid 
funds.

Discussion of Specific Compliance Dates

    The FHWA has identified three compliance dates established in the 
December 2007 Final Rule on maintaining minimum sign retroreflectivity 
and four of the new compliance dates established in the Final Rule for 
the 2009 edition of the MUTCD that might potentially present the 
greatest challenges to overcome. A discussion of each follows.

Maintaining Minimum Sign Retroreflectivity (Section 2A.08)

    On December 21, 2007, the Final Rule for revision number 2 of the 
2003 edition of the MUTCD was issued regarding maintaining minimum 
levels of sign retroreflectivity. This rulemaking was in response to a 
statutory requirement.\6\ As a part of this Final Rule, three specific 
compliance dates were established regarding the new requirements: (1) 
January 22, 2012 (4 years)--implementation and continued use of an 
assessment or management method that is designed to maintain traffic 
sign retroreflectivity at or above the established minimum levels; (2) 
January 22, 2015 (7 years)--replacement of regulatory, warning, and 
post-mounted guide (except street name) signs that are identified using 
the assessment or management method as failing to meet the established 
minimum levels; and (3) January 22, 2018 (10 years)--replacement of 
street name signs and overhead guide signs that are identified using 
the assessment or management method as failing to meet the established 
minimum levels.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \6\ Section 406 of the Department of Transportation and Related 
Agencies Appropriations Act, 1993 (Pub. L. 102-388; October 6, 
1992).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The new minimum sign retroreflectivity requirements were intended 
to assure adequate nighttime visibility of traffic signs, especially 
for older drivers, but with significant safety benefits for all 
drivers, as clearly documented by research.\7\ Further, the 7-year and 
10-year compliance periods were set based on expected service life of 
sign sheeting materials.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \7\ D. Ripley. Quantifying the Safety Benefits of Traffic 
Control Devices--Benefit-Cost Analysis of Traffic Sign Upgrades. 
Accepted for publication in the proceedings of the 2005 Mid-
Continent Research Symposium, Ames, Iowa, August 2005. This paper 
can be found at http://tcd.tamu.edu/Documents/MinRetro/MinRetro.htm.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

One-Way Signs (Section 2B.40)

    On December 16, 2009, the Final Rule for the 2009 edition of the 
MUTCD was issued and a compliance date of December 31, 2019, (10 years) 
was established for upgrading existing field locations to comply with a 
new requirement for the number and location of One-Way regulatory 
signs. The new requirement is that One-Way signs shall be installed on 
the near-right and far-left corners of each intersection with the 
directional roadways of a divided highway having a median width of 30 
feet or more. This was a recommendation (Guidance) in the 2003 MUTCD 
that was strengthened to a requirement (Standard) in the 2009 MUTCD.
    Some highway agencies already have a policy, per the 2003 guidance, 
to install near-right and far-left One-Way signs at each directional 
roadway intersection of their divided highways with medians 30 feet or 
wider.

[[Page 74130]]

However, agencies that did not comply with the 2003 guidance at all or 
only at some of the applicable intersections now must change their 
policy for use of One-Way signs at newly constructed intersections, 
and, by the end of 2019, install any additional One-Way signs needed at 
their existing locations to meet the Standard. Even though 10 years is 
allowed for this work to be done, this might constitute a burden for 
some agencies with significant mileage of divided highways with medians 
30 feet or wider.
    The strengthening of this provision to a Standard was based on 
safety research as detailed in the Older Driver Handbook.\8\ Further, 
the 10-year compliance date for existing locations was established in 
consideration of the demonstrated safety issues associated with wrong-
way travel on divided highways and because FHWA anticipates that 
installation of the required additional signs at existing locations 
will provide significant safety benefits to road users. The FHWA 
believes that State and local highway agencies and owners of private 
roads open to public travel can schedule the installation of the 
additional required signs in conjunction with their programs for 
maintaining and replacing other signs at existing locations along 
divided highways that are worn out or damaged, thus minimizing any 
impacts.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \8\ ``Guidelines and Recommendations to Accommodate Older 
Drivers and Pedestrians,'' FHWA Report no. FHWA-RD-01-051, May 2001, 
can be viewed at the following Internet Web site: http://www.tfhrc.gov/humanfac/01105/cover.htm. Recommendations I.E(4), 
I.K(2), and I.K(3).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Horizontal Alignment Warning Signs (Sections 2C.06 through 2C.14)

    The 2009 MUTCD established new requirements that engineering 
practices shall be used to determine the appropriate advisory speed on 
horizontal curves and requiring a hierarchal approach to determine the 
use of various horizontal alignment warning signs, including Turn or 
Curve signs, Advisory Speed plaques, Chevrons and Large Arrow signs, 
and Exit Speed/Ramp Speed signs. For these signs, the Table 2C-5 matrix 
of ``Required, Recommended, or Optional'' must be used to determine use 
of each type of sign, based on the difference between the speed limit 
on the approach and the advisory speed of the curve. The new 
requirement applies to arterials and collectors with an Average Annual 
Daily Traffic volume of over 1,000 vehicles per day. A compliance date 
of December 31, 2019 (10 years), was established for upgrading signing 
at existing field locations to comply with the new horizontal alignment 
warning sign requirements.
    Even though 10 years is allowed for this work to be done, this 
might constitute a burden for some agencies with a network of higher 
volume arterial and collector roads having large numbers of horizontal 
curves.
    The new requirement for use of engineering practices to determine 
advisory speeds for curves and to use Table 2C-5 to determine the 
required, recommended, and optional use of horizontal alignment warning 
signs and plaques was determined to be needed because fatalities at 
horizontal curves account for 25 percent of all highway fatalities, 
even though horizontal curves are only a small portion of the nation's 
highway mileage, and because the past application of engineering 
judgment for determination of advisory speeds and horizontal curve 
signing, without specific uniform criteria, has not sufficiently 
improved the safety performance of horizontal curves. Also, the 10-year 
compliance date was established because of the demonstrated safety 
issues associated with run-off-the-road crashes at horizontal curves 
and because FHWA anticipates that a uniform method of determining 
advisory speeds and installation of the required additional signs at 
existing locations will provide significant safety benefits to road 
users. The FHWA believes that State and local highway agencies and 
owners of private roads open to public travel can schedule the 
installation of the additional required signs in conjunction with their 
programs for maintaining and replacing other signs at existing 
locations that are worn out or damaged, thus minimizing any financial 
impacts.

Yellow Change Intervals and Red Clearance Intervals (Section 4D.26)

    The 2009 MUTCD established a new requirement that durations of 
yellow change intervals and red clearance intervals for traffic signals 
shall be determined using engineering practices, such as the kinematic 
formulas published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers that 
take into account approach speeds, deceleration rates of stopping 
vehicles, intersection width, and roadway grades. Previously, the MUTCD 
did not require or recommend any particular methods for determining the 
durations of these critical safety intervals in the traffic signal 
sequence. A compliance date of December 31, 2014 (5 years), or when 
timing adjustments are made to the individual intersection and/or 
corridor, whichever occurs first, was established for highway agencies 
to use engineering practices to determine times for the yellow change 
intervals and red clearance interval at their existing signalized 
locations and to revise the timing of those intervals based on the 
determinations.
    Many highway agencies have been using engineering practices to 
determine yellow change interval and red clearance interval durations. 
However, there are some agencies that have been using jurisdiction-wide 
constant durations, ``rules of thumb,'' or assigning durations to these 
intervals without applying any engineering factors. Such highway 
agencies might be burdened by the need to evaluate all their signalized 
intersections and adjust the durations of the yellow change intervals 
and red clearance intervals to comply with the new requirement within 
the 5-year compliance period.
    As documented in the FHWA report ``Signalized Intersections: 
Informational Guide,'' \9\ a variety of studies from 1985 through 2002 
found significant safety benefits from using accepted engineering 
practices to determine the durations of yellow change and red clearance 
intervals. Subsequent safety studies \10\ have further documented 
significant major reductions in crashes when jurisdictions have revised 
the durations of the yellow change and red clearance intervals using 
accepted engineering practices. The 5-year compliance date was 
established because of the demonstrated safety benefits, as discussed 
above, of proper engineering-based timing of these critical signal 
intervals, and because traffic signals and signal control equipment 
have a very long service life (30 to 50 years is not uncommon) and very 
long intervals between signal timing adjustments are typical at many 
traffic signal locations in many jurisdictions. The FHWA believes that 
relying on systematic upgrading provisions, based on service life, to 
achieve compliance with this critical timing need would take an 
inordinately long time, to the detriment of road user safety. The FHWA 
believes that State and local highway agencies and owners

[[Page 74131]]

of private roads open to public travel can minimize any impact of this 
signal timing requirement by adopting a policy that determines 
durations of yellow change and red clearance intervals that is based on 
engineering practices and then by applying that policy whenever an 
existing individual signal location or system of interconnected 
locations is being checked or adjusted for any reason, such as 
investigation of citizen complaints or routine maintenance.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \9\ ``Signalized Intersections: Informational Guide,'' FHWA 
publication number FHWA-HRT-04-091, August 2004, pages 209-211, can 
be viewed at the following Internet Web site: http://www.tfhrc.gov/safety/pubs/04091/.
    \10\ NCHRP Research Results Digest 299, November 2005, can be 
viewed at the following Internet Web site: http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_rrd_299.pdf. This digest 
includes data from the study ``Changes in Crash Risk Following 
Retiming of the Traffic Signal Change Intervals,'' by R.A. Retting, 
J.F. Chapline, and A.F. Williams, as published in Accident Analysis 
and Prevention, Volume 34, number 2, pages 215-220, available from 
Pergamon Press, Oxford, NY.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pedestrian Intervals and Signal Phases (Section 4E.06)

    The 2009 MUTCD established a new requirement for pedestrian signals 
that the pedestrian change interval (flashing upraised orange hand) 
shall not extend into the red clearance interval and shall be followed 
by a buffer interval of at least 3 seconds. Previously, it was 
allowable to continue the flashing orange hand display into and through 
the vehicular red clearance interval, and thus there was no requirement 
for any pedestrian safety ``buffer time'' between the end of the 
flashing orange hand display and the start of green for conflicting 
traffic on the street being crossed by pedestrians. A compliance date 
of December 31, 2014 (5 years), or when timing adjustments are made to 
the individual intersection and/or corridor, whichever occurs first, 
was established for this new requirement.
    Most highway agencies have operated their pedestrian signals so 
that the flashing upraised hand terminates no later than the start of 
the yellow change interval for parallel vehicular traffic. With this 
display sequence, the yellow time and any red clearance time serves as 
the buffer interval and would comply with the new requirement. However, 
there are some highway agencies that have made it a practice at some or 
all of their signals to extend the flashing orange hand to the end of 
the yellow change interval or even all the way to the end of the red 
clearance interval. Most such pedestrian signal displays do not provide 
the required minimum 3 seconds after the end of the flashing orange 
hand as a margin of safety that allows a pedestrian who underestimates 
the time needed to cross a roadway, with or without a countdown 
display, to better avoid a conflict with vehicles. Highway agencies 
that have existing pedestrian signals operated in this manner might be 
burdened by the need to adjust the control equipment and/or durations 
of timing intervals to comply with the new requirement within the 5-
year compliance period.
    The FHWA established the 5-year compliance date because of the 
demonstrated safety issues associated with pedestrian crossings at 
traffic signals, the need for consistent display of signal indications 
for pedestrians, and the pedestrian confusion that would likely occur 
as a result of a long-term mixing of a variety of pedestrian signal 
displays associated with the pedestrian clearance interval. Traffic 
signals and signal control equipment have a very long service life (30 
to 50 years is not uncommon) and very long intervals between signal 
retiming are typical at many traffic signal locations in many 
jurisdictions. The FHWA believes that relying on systematic upgrading, 
based on service life, to achieve compliance with this critical timing 
need would take an inordinately long time, to the detriment of 
pedestrian safety. The FHWA believes that State and local highway 
agencies and owners of private roads open to public travel can minimize 
any impact of this signal timing requirement by adopting a policy for 
timing and display of pedestrian change intervals in relation to 
vehicular intervals in compliance with Section 4E.06 and then by 
applying that policy whenever an existing individual signal location or 
system of interconnected locations is being checked or adjusted for any 
reason, such as investigation of citizen complaints or routine 
maintenance.

Questions

    A series of seven specific questions regarding MUTCD compliance 
dates are listed below, for which the FHWA requests input on each, to 
help further examine this issue.
    The seven questions are as follows:
    1. What, if any, difficulties does your organization anticipate in 
meeting the seven MUTCD compliance dates discussed above for upgrading 
existing non-compliant devices in the field?
    2. Are there one or more of these seven compliance dates that are 
more problematic than the others for your organization? If so, which 
ones, and why?
    3. If some or all of these seven compliance dates were extended, 
how long do you estimate it would take to complete the necessary 
traffic control device upgrades?
    4. What safety or other impacts would result from extending some or 
all of these seven compliance dates?
    5. Are there other MUTCD compliance dates not described in this 
notice that are problematic for your organization? If yes, which ones, 
and why?
    6. What considerations should be applied to establish new 
compliance dates in the MUTCD?
    7. What other comments or input do you wish to provide to FHWA 
regarding MUTCD compliance dates for upgrading existing traffic control 
devices?

    Authority: 23 U.S.C. 101(a), 104, 109(d), 114(a), 217, 315, and 
402(a); 23 CFR 1.32; and, 49 CFR 1.48(b).

    Issued on: November 18, 2010.
Shailen Bhatt,
Acting Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2010-29587 Filed 11-29-10; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-22-P