The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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by Matt Cate, P.E.

The Federal Highway Administration issued a new notification and request for comment in the January 11, 2013, Federal Register. This notification specifically addresses a proposal to split the existing Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) into two separate documents. One document, containing standards, guidance, and options essential to the design and application of traffic control devices (TCDs), would remain subject to the formal rulemaking process. The second document, containing typical applications and other supplemental information, would not be subject to the current rulemaking process.

Interested parties may submit comments for consideration through March 12, 2013. Over the years, the MUTCD has grown from approximately 150 pages in the original 1935 document to more than 850 pages in the revised 2009 Edition. This growth in the MUTCD has complicated the rulemaking process for FHWA and may make it difficult for many users to locate and interpret information within the Manual. The proposed changes are intended to result in "a simpler, streamlined MUTCD." The current request for comments allows you to have a say in this potential transition.

The MUTCD itself would be reduced in size and scope to include standard statements, guidance statements that are critical to TCD design, application, or traffic safety, and option statements that provide exemptions to these standard and guidance statements. The second document, or Applications Supplement, would include recommendations and best practices while serving as a companion to the MUTCD. Content in this supplement could be expanded beyond the content of the current MUTCD to include additional information from other publications. Compliance with the material contained in the Applications Supplement would be encouraged but not legally required.

There are currently two options for the division of current MUTCD. Under Option A, the MUTCD would retain all standard statements, important guidance statements, and all associated option statements. Support statements and stand-alone option statements would be moved to the new Applications Supplement. Option B would remove more information from the MUTCD, leaving only standard statements and option statements that contain exceptions to these standards. Under either option, the MUTCD and Applications Supplement would share a common organization and structure to make it easier for users to move from one document to the other. FHWA has posed several specific questions regarding the proposed restructuring of the MUTCD. These questions are paraphrased below:

  1. Do you support the plan to separate the MUTCD into two documents?
  2. Should the sections in the new Applications Supplement have a one-to-one correlation to the sections of the MUTCD?
  3. Do you prefer Option A or Option B?
  4. How would these changes to the MUTCD affect your state?
  5. Do you prefer the printed or the electronic version of the MUTCD?
  6. Do you find the "hotlinks" in the electronic version of the MUTCD helpful or cumbersome?
  7. If the MUTCD is split, should FHWA continue to update the Applications Supplement or should this responsibility be transferred to another group or organization?
  8. Should the Applications Supplement be updated without seeking public comment? Why or why not?
  9. Should FHWA consider additional options to split the MUTCD into smaller documents?

Complete details of this Notification and Request for Comment can be found in the January 11, 2013 Federal Register (Volume 78, Number 8) at http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=FHWA-2012-0118.


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