[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 15 (Monday, January 25, 2016)]
[Pages 4083-4084]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-01383]



Federal Highway Administration

National Standards for Traffic Control Devices; the Manual on 
Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways; Notice of 
Termination of Interim Approval IA-5

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Department of 
Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Notice.


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 notice terminates the Interim Approval for Use of 
Clearview Font for Positive Contrast Legends on Guide Signs (IA-5), 
issued September 2, 2004, as authorized by Section 1A.10 of the MUTCD, 
and discontinues the provisional use of an alternative lettering style 
in traffic control device applications. The result of this termination 
rescinds the use of letter styles other than the FHWA Standard 
Alphabets on traffic control devices, except as provided otherwise in 
the MUTCD. Existing signs that use the provisional letter style and 
comply with the Interim Approval are unaffected by this action and may 
remain as long as they are in serviceable condition. This action does 
not create a mandate for the removal or installation of any sign. This 
action does not amend any provision of the MUTCD.

DATES: Effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions about this notice, 
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.



    Numerous research efforts have taken place over the last 15 years 
with the goal of improving the legibility of highway signs. One area of 
focus has been on guide signs. As a result of some early studies,\1\ 
FHWA issued an Interim Approval allowing provisional use of an 
alternative lettering style known as ClearviewTM for signs 
in positive contrast color orientations (lighter legend on darker 
background).\2\ Although the research supported only one series of this 
lettering style, the Interim Approval was written in a way that would 
authorize narrower letter forms, to correspond to the system of the 
FHWA Standard Alphabets, in anticipation of successful future research 
evaluations. However, subsequent evaluations showed no benefit to the 
narrower letter forms and degraded sign legibility when compared to the 
corresponding FHWA Standard Alphabet series.\3\ Additionally, tests of 
alternative lettering in negative contrast color orientations (dark 
legend on lighter background, such as for regulatory and warning signs) 
showed no improvement and significantly degraded legibility of the 

[[Page 4084]]

Ultimately, the consistent finding among all the research evaluations 
is that the brightness of the retroreflective sheeting is the primary 
factor in nighttime legibility.

    \1\ Carlson, P.J., Evaluation of Clearview Alphabet with 
Microprismatic Retroreflective Sheetings, Report No. FHWA/TX-02/
4049-1. Texas Transportation Institute, August 2001, resubmitted 
October 2001.
    \2\ Interim Approval 5 can be accessed at the following Web 
address: http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/res-ia_clearview_font.htm.
    \3\ Chrysler, S.T., P.J. Carlson, and H.G. Hawkins. Nighttime 
Legibility of Ground-Mounted Traffic Signs as a Function of Font, 
Color, and Retroreflective Sheeting Type, Report No. FHWA/TX-03/
1796-2. Texas Transportation Institute, September 2002.
    \4\ Holick, A., S.T. Chrysler, E. Park, and P.J. Carlson. 
Evaluation of the ClearviewTM Font for Negative Contrast 
Traffic Signs, Report No. FHWA/TX-06/0-4984-1. Texas Transportation 
Institute, January 2006, resubmitted April 2006.

    The presence and availability of two separate letter styles with 
differing criteria have resulted in significant confusion and 
inconsistency in highway sign design, fabrication processes, and 
application. Although the terms of FHWA's 2004 Interim Approval are 
explicit, misunderstandings and misapplications of the provisional 
letter style have resulted. Inconsistent sign design practices are 
becoming more common and may have coincided with the provisional 
allowance of an alternative lettering style due to a lack of consistent 
implementation and inaccurate presumptions that lesser sign design 
criteria, such as reduced interline and edge spacing, are broadly 
acceptable. Additionally, many agencies believed that the alternative 
lettering style should be used in all applications and that all 
lettering should be displayed in upper and lowercase lettering, 
regardless of the type of message. There is also considerable confusion 
that the requirement of the MUTCD to display destination and street 
names in upper and lowercase lettering equates to the use of the 
provisional lettering style rather than the Standard Alphabets. In 
actuality, there is no interdependency between letter style and case.

Purpose of This Notification

    Uniformity in the display of traffic control devices is central to 
the underlying foundation of the MUTCD. As such, FHWA establishes the 
criteria therein with uniformity in mind. This uniformity extends not 
only to the content of the message displayed, but also to the format 
and appearance of the display itself. Although seldom specifically 
identifiable by the motorist, non-uniformity of a sign display or 
sequence of signs might exhibit itself in less direct ways, such as 
diminished legibility requiring additional glance time directed toward 
a sign or group of signs instead of toward the traffic on the road.
    The FHWA is committed to exploring solutions that can significantly 
contribute to enhanced road user safety and are readily and feasibly 
implemented. In this particular case, there is no benefit of the 
alternative method that cannot be similarly achieved within the 
established practice. In many cases, the established practice actually 
demonstrated benefits that the alternative could not achieve. The FHWA 
believes that devoting further resources to the development of an 
alternative will not yield dramatically different results that would 
warrant an institutional change.


    Based on these findings, FHWA does not intend to pursue further 
consideration, development, or support of an alternative letter style. 
Accordingly, FHWA discontinues further implementation of an alternative 
letter style and terminates and rescinds the Interim Approval for new 
signing installations, except as otherwise provided in the MUTCD. 
Existing signs that use the provisional letter style and comply with 
the Interim Approval are unaffected by this action and may remain as 
long as they are in serviceable condition. This action does not create 
a mandate for the removal or installation of any sign. This action does 
not amend any provision of the MUTCD.

    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: January 15, 2016.
Gregory G. Nadeau,
Administrator, Federal Highway Administration.
[FR Doc. 2016-01383 Filed 1-22-16; 8:45 am]