[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 245 (Tuesday, December 22, 2015)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 79522-79526]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-32107]



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 
Transportation (DOT).

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 
MUTCD editions.

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

[[Page 79523]]

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 
[email protected]. For legal questions, please contact Mr. 
William Winne, Office of the Chief Counsel, (202) 366-1397, or via 
email at [email protected]. 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 

[[Page 79524]]

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 
significant way.
    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 
engineering considerations.
    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 
structures include:
    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

[[Page 79525]]

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 
key standards.
    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, 
    d. Other.
    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 
Web site.

    \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.

[[Page 79526]]

    Issued on: December 10, 2015.
Gregory G. Nadeau,
Administrator, Federal Highway Administration.
[FR Doc. 2015-32107 Filed 12-21-15; 8:45 am]