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MUTCD Update: No News Is The News

by Matt Cate, P.E.

You may remember that we shared news of a Request for Comments regarding potential options for splitting the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) into two separate documents. In this request for comments, FHWA described two options under consideration. Option A would have retained Standard statements and important Guidance statements, along with associated Option statements in the MUTCD. Support statements and stand-alone Option statements (those that are not exceptions to the Standard and Guidance statements that were retained in the MUTCD) would be moved from the MUTCD to the Applications Supplement. Option B would have moved a greater amount of information from the MUTCD to the Applications Supplement, retaining in the MUTCD only Standard statements and any related Option statements that contain exceptions to the Standard statements. These options were intended to reduce the complexity and length of the MUTCD and simplify the rulemaking process by removing supplemental information from the regulatory document.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued its response to comments received from 40 State DOTs, 26 local agencies, 17 associations, 34 consultants, 3 vendors, and 49 private citizens. Out of 169 unique responses received, 155 (92%) were either against splitting the MUTCD into 2 separate documents, or recommended postponing any action to split the manual pending results from the ongoing National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) strategic planning effort, which are expected to be available in January 2014. The strategic planning effort will address many issues that would impact future MUTCD content and structure, including consideration of an MUTCD that would consist of more than one volume.

Commenters also identified several relevant concerns, including: the MUTCD's complexity as a result of its organization rather than the amount of information presented; the potential for the total volume of information presented in the newly separate documents to exceed that of the MUTCD in its current format; the potential for confusion and inconsistency as users attempt to combine information from the MUTCD and a separate applications supplement; and the resulting complexity that would be faced by more than 30 state DOTs that adopt state-specific versions of the MUTCD or publish state supplements to the national manual.

In its response to these comments, FHWA indicates that it will not move forward at this time with its plan to split the MUTCD into multiple documents due to a lack of support from commenters. Instead, the agency will focus its efforts on other alternatives to make the MUTCD more user-friendly. To see the complete response to comments, please visit the MUTCD website at http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/.


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