AASHTO Urges FHWA to Move Forward with MUTCD Revision

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials urged the Federal Highway Administration to move forward with its proposed update to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices or MUTCD, despite calls to re-start the revision process.

[Above photo collage by the American Traffic Safety Services Association.]

“It has been over 10 years since the last update and, during this time, numerous advancements have been made in transportation research, technology, and practice that are not yet reflected in the manual,” AASHTO noted in its May 14 letter.

[To view AASHTO’s full comments regarding the FHWA’s proposed MUTCD revisions, click here.]

“These advancements have the potential to save lives and prevent serious injuries on the nation’s transportation system,” the group said. “Rescinding the NPA [notice of proposed amendment] and starting over, as some have suggested, would negate years of important work by FHWA and countless volunteers, and would miss the opportunity to save lives now.”

Photo by WSDOT

The letter – signed by Victoria Sheehan, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and AASHTO’s 2020-2021 president – also stressed that it “stands ready to work with FHWA” to ensure that the manual “meets the needs of all users in an equitable and consistent manner” going forward.

“We believe it is important that the MUTCD continue to provide for uniformity related to critical traffic control devices, but also maintain flexibility to better accommodate all road users in urban and suburban contexts,” AASHTO said in its letter.

Photo by the Virginia DOT

That includes things like bike lane markings commonly used in intersections and driveways, while also allowing consideration for unique regional or local conditions, including “cultural conditions” that can differ considerably from place to place, the letter stated.

That is also why AASHTO said the MUTCD should be updated “on a more regular basis,” even allowing for section-by-section updates as needed to incorporate evolving data and research – especially in the areas of active transportation – in order to better protect vulnerable roads users such as bicyclists and pedestrians.

Other MUTCD recommendations offered by AASHTO to FHWA include:

  • Support for the flexibility to use an expert system to validate the engineering study in determining speed limits, which should include consideration of context and community.
  • The inclusion within those engineering studies of criteria evaluating the safety and mobility needs of people walking, biking, and riding transit.
  • The exclusion of several items from being considered “traffic control devices,” such as state and local “Welcome” signs, plus project information, “Memorial,” or “Dedication” signage.
  • An objection to fines being levied on state departments of transportation for non-conforming practices on local or county roads where state transportation agencies do not have regulatory authority.
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