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If you have an idea for a new traffic control device or a different application of an existing device that will improve road user safety or operation, but the device or application is not compliant with or not included in the MUTCD, it is possible to experiment with the device or its use.

A successful experiment is one where the research results show that the public understands the new device or application, the device or application generally performs as intended, and the device does not cause adverse conditions. The "experimenter" must evaluate conditions both before and after installation of the experimental device and describe the measurements of effectiveness (MOEs) of the safety and operational benefits (e.g., better visibility, reduced congestion).

All requests for experimentation should originate with the State/local highway agency or toll operator responsible for managing the roadway or controlled setting where experiment will take place. That organization forwards the request to the FHWA - with a courtesy copy to the FHWA Division Office. The FHWA must approve the experiment before it begins.

Requests for experimentation approval should be on agency letterhead and should be sent electronically as an attachment (PDF or Word Document) to an e-mail to: MUTCDofficialrequest@dot.gov. [Note: if e-mail is not possible, the letter may be sent via postal mail or delivery service to FHWA at 1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., HOTO-1, Washington, DC 20590.]

As described in Paragraph 10 of Section 1B.05, all requests shall include:

  1. A statement of the nature of the problem and a hypothesis establishing the premise of the experiment.
  2. A description of the proposed change to the traffic control device or application of the traffic control device, including the manner in which  it deviates from the provisions of the current MUTCD, and how it is expected to be an improvement over existing provisions.
  3. Illustration(s) that would help to explain the traffic control device or use of the traffic control device.
  4. Any supporting data explaining how the traffic control device was developed, including if it has been tested, in what ways it was found to be adequate or inadequate, and how this choice of device or application was derived
  5. Comparison of the proposed device to other compliant devices or treatments, either individually or in combination, that address the same condition, if applicable.
  6. A legally-binding statement that the device or application is in the public domain, and is not protected by a patent, trademark, or copyright (see MUTCD Sections 1B.05 and 1D.06 for additional details).
  7. The time period and location(s) of the experiment.
  8. Control sites for comparison purposes or justification for not using control sites.
  9. A detailed research and evaluation plan that provides for close monitoring of the experimentation, throughout all stages of its field implementation. The evaluation plan shall include an appropriate evaluation methodology, such as before and after analysis, or other appropriate methodology  as well as quantitative date describing the performance of the experimental device.
  10. An agreement to provide semi-annual progress reports for the duration of the experiment, and an agreement to provide a report of the final results of the experimentation to the FHWA's Office of Transportation Operations within three months following completion of the experimentation (see MUTCD Section 1B.05 paragraphs 10, 12 and 14 for additional details).
  11. An agreement to restore the site of the experiment to a condition that complies with the provisions of this Manual within 3 months following the end of the time period of the experiment. This agreement shall also provide that the agency sponsoring the experimentation will terminate the experimentation at any time that it determines that safety concerns are directly or indirectly attributable to the experimentation and the agency shall provide timely notification to the FHWA’s Office of Transportation Operations. The FHWA’s Office of Transportation Operations shall have the right to terminate approval of the experimentation at any time if there is an indication of safety or operational concerns, or if the terms of the approval are not being adhered to. If, as a result of the experimentation, a request is made that this Manual be changed to include the device or application being experimented with, the FHWA’s Office of Transportation Operations will determine whether the device or application can be permitted to remain in place until an official rulemaking action has occurred.