The Federal Highway Administration recently issued the 11th version of its “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices” or MUTCD, which becomes effective – according to the agency’s federal register notice – on January 18, 2024.
[Above photo by the FHWA]
The manual – clocking in at over 1,000 pages and last updated in 2009 – serves as the national standard for traffic signs, signals, and pavement markings to ensure a uniform and predictable environment for people who walk, bike, and drive; a “vitally important guidebook that affects safety on countless roads around the country,” noted Pete Buttigieg, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, in a statement.
“With this long-awaited update to the MUTCD, we are helping our state and local partners make it safer to walk, bike, and drive, and embracing new technologies with the potential to make our transportation system safer and more efficient,” he added.
FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt said that the new MUTCD “gives greater consideration to all road users, who deserve to be safe when traveling on our streets and roads. It will also help improve the public’s travel experience whether driving on an Interstate or crossing the street in cities and towns across America.”
As part of the process of updating the 11th edition, the FHWA sought and incorporated input from the public; including state and local transportation agencies plus other industry stakeholders. For example, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials submitted detailed comments to FHWA regarding MUTCD revisions in May 2021; noting that it supported the agency’s overall MUTCD revision effort.
FHWA stressed in an 84-page summary of the new MUTCD that the scope of this guidebook is limited to traffic control devices – i.e., the signs, signals, and markings, and how they appear, operate, and are used – and thus does not serve as a roadway design manual or as a comprehensive safety manual.
“The MUTCD is about directly communicating with the road user, in an effective manner, about how the roadway is intended to be used in the context and constraints of its physical space, design features, and surrounding environment,” FHWA stressed in its summary. “It works to establish uniformity in message to accommodate expectancy and behavior.”
The new MUTCD also contains an entirely new part devoted to autonomous vehicles or AVs, with six sections providing provisions beneficial to AV operations on signs, markings, traffic signals, and temporary traffic control, as well as traffic control at railroad and light rail transit grade crossings, and on bicycle facilities. The FHWA said the purpose of the new section is to “identify traffic control device considerations for AV operations on roadways specifically being designed to accommodate these vehicles.”
In the coming months, FHWA said it plans to host a series of public webinars, post online videos, and conduct other outreach opportunities to help stakeholders make the most of the latest MUTCD updates.