DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Highway Administration
23 CFR Part 655
[FHWA Docket No. FHWA-97-2353; 96-20]
National Standards for Traffic Control Devices; Metric Conversion
AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.
ACTION: Final rule.
SUMMARY: This rule adopts as final, with changes, the interim rule
concerning national standards for traffic control devices, metric
conversion, published on Tuesday, June 11, 1996. This document makes
minor changes to certain regulatory citations and corrects the titles
of certain publications incorporated by reference.
DATES: This final rule is effective June 24, 1999. The incorporation by
reference of certain publications listed in the regulations was
reapproved by the Director of the Federal Register as of June 24, 1999.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Ernest Huckaby, Office of
Transportation Operations (HOTO), (202) 366-9064, or Mr. Raymond
Cuprill, Office of the Chief Counsel (202) 366-1377, Federal Highway
Administration, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, D.C. 20590. Office
hours are from 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday,
except Federal holidays.
Internet users can access all comments received by the U.S. DOT
Dockets, Room PL-401, by using the universal resource locator (URL):
http://dms.dot.gov. It is available 24 hours each day, 365 days each
year. Please follow the instructions online for more information and
You may download an electronic copy of this document by using a
modem and suitable communications software from the Government Printing
Office's Electronic Bulletin Board Service at (202) 512-1661. Internet
users may reach the Federal Register's home page at: http://
www.nara.gov/fedreg and the Government Printing Office's database at:
The text for Part 1 of the MUTCD is available from the FHWA Office
of Transportation Operations (HOTO or from the FHWA Home Page at the
Section 1211(d) of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st
Century (TEA-21) (Pub. L. 105-178, 112 Stat. 107) removed the target
date for metric conversion, thereby allowing the State departments of
transportation (DOTs) the option of converting to the International
System of Measurements (SI). Section 205(c)(2) of the National Highway
System Designation Act of 1995 (Pub. L. 104-59, 109 Stat. 568) was
amended by striking the language ``before September 30, 2000,'' which
removes the mandate that States convert to SI. Most of the State DOTs
have substantially converted their project development and construction
processes to SI. Full conversion by all the State DOTs remains an FHWA
goal since it will improve efficiency within the highway construction
industry by reducing translation errors and enabling the contractors,
consultants, fabricators and materials suppliers to utilize a single
system of units. The FHWA believes that it is in the best interest of
the highway community to expedite the metrication process and ensure
compatibility within the highway industry and with other industries.
Reversion to inch-pound units by some States will perpetuate a
confusing mix of measurement systems.
The FHWA is adopting, as its policy for the design of traffic
control devices for use on all roads open to public travel, two
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials'
(AASHTO) publications: ``Guide to Metric Conversion, AASHTO, 1993,''
and ``Traffic Engineering Metric Conversion Factors, 1993--Addendum to
the Guide to Metric Conversion, AASHTO, October 1993.''
The FHWA's Metric Conversion Policy, published at 57 FR 24843 on
June 11, 1992, requires that newly authorized Federal-aid construction
contracts be in metric units only by September 30, 1996. The National
Highway System Designation Act of 1995 postponed this requirement until
September 30, 2000. Many States have progressed in their conversion
activities to a point that it is impractical not to continue the
transition into full metric use. Because of the long lead times
required for highway construction projects, planning for projects is
already underway and, in fact, the majority of the Federal-aid highway
construction program nationwide is currently being constructed in
metric units. It is the intent of this rulemaking to assure the States
and other FHWA partners that the metric conversions used to formulate
their plans are consistent nationwide.
The traffic control device design and applications standards have
been adopted by the FHWA for use on all streets and highways open to
public travel and are incorporated by reference in 23 CFR Part 655,
subpart F. The current design standards are on file at the Office of
the Federal Register in Washington, D.C. and are available for
inspection from the FHWA Washington Headquarters and all FHWA Division
and Resource Centers as prescribed in 49 CFR Part 7. Copies of the
current AASHTO publications are also available for purchase from the
American Association of State Highway and
Transportation Officials, Suite 249, 444 North Capitol Street NW.,
Washington, D.C. 20001.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation
Officials (AASHTO) is an organization which represents the 52 State
highway and transportation agencies (including the District of Columbia
and Puerto Rico). Its members consist of the duly constituted heads and
other chief officials of those 52 agencies. The Secretary of the United
States Department of Transportation (DOT) is an ex officio member, and
DOT officials participate in various AASHTO activities as non-voting
representatives. Among other functions, the AASHTO develops and issues
standards, specifications, policies, guides, and related materials for
use by the States for highway projects. Many of the standards adopted
by the FHWA and incorporated in 23 CFR Part 655 were developed and
issued by the AASHTO or by organizations of which it is a major voting
member. Revisions made to such documents by the AASHTO are
independently reviewed and adopted by the FHWA before they are applied
to street and highway projects.
The FHWA initiated a phased five-year plan to convert its
activities and business operations to the metric system of weights and
measures as required by the Metric Conversion Act of 1975 ((Pub. L. 94-
168, 89 Stat. 1007) as amended by sec. 5164 of the Omnibus Trade and
Competitiveness Act of 1988 (Pub. L. 100-418, 102 Stat. 1107, 1451))
(Metric Act). The TEA-21, section 1211(d), does not change the
requirements placed on the FHWA by the Omnibus Trade and
Competitiveness Act of 1988. Therefore, the FHWA will continue to use
SI in its daily business activities. In keeping with existing policy,
correspondence or publications intended for a broad audience which
includes the general public may use dual units with the SI value first
followed by the inch-pound value in parentheses. All other documents
should be in SI only.
The AASHTO developed and published ``Traffic Engineering Metric
Conversion Factors, 1993--Addendum to the Guide to Metric Conversion,
AASHTO, October 1993,'' listing the conversion values for nationwide
uniformity. Through the interim final rule, the FHWA adopted the metric
conversion traffic engineering values established by the AASHTO in the
publications entitled ``Guide to Metric Conversion, AASHTO, 1993,'' and
``Traffic Engineering Metric Conversion Factors, 1993--Addendum to the
Guide to Metric Conversion, AASHTO, October 1993.'' Included are metric
values for determining the metric sizes for signs and pavement
The language in the interim final rule cited to 49 CFR Part 7,
Appendix D. Please note that the appendices to Part 7 have been
removed. Therefore, the new citation has been changed to 49 CFR Part 7.
Discussion of Comments
An interim final rule for 23 CFR 655.601 was published on June 11,
1996, at 61 FR 29624. Interested persons were invited to participate in
this rulemaking by submitting written comments to FHWA Docket No. 96-20
on or before August 11, 1996. The FHWA has rearranged its docket system
to accord with the electronic system adopted by the Department of
Transportation. A new docket was established to receive the information
with the number FHWA Docket FHWA-97-2353. Material previously submitted
to Docket 96-20 was transferred to FHWA-97-2353. Comments were received
from three State highway agencies, one local jurisdiction, one
association, one traffic consultant, and one safety group. Five of
these either favored metric conversion, did not address the issue of
AASHTO guidelines, or offered suggestions for improving the guidelines.
Two commenters, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS) and
Connecticut Construction Industries Association, Inc. (CCIA), opposed
the FHWA's adoption of the AASHTO metric conversion publications as the
agency's interim policy for design of traffic control devices without
prior notice and the opportunity for comment. These commenters objected
to issuance of the interim final rule, alleging that the FHWA has
truncated proper rulemaking procedures. The CCIA specifically requests
that the FHWA rescind the rule until such time as it is adopted after
notice of an opportunity for comment.
The FHWA believes prior notice and opportunity for comment are
unnecessary because the interim metric value documents adopted here are
functionally equivalent to the English measurements already adopted by
the FHWA pursuant to notice and comment procedures in various revisions
of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and, at the
same time, allow easier and more manageable conversions to metric
measurements. In addition, as indicated in the prior notice, we
anticipate that the AASHTO metric values adopted here will be used only
on an interim basis until the MUTCD is revised to incorporate design
values converted to the metric system. This action is expected during
We also reiterate the prior finding that imposition of notice and
comment procedures here would be contrary to the public interest.
Adoption as a final rule of the interim metric values provides States
and other FHWA partners, including highway construction contractors,
with necessary certainty and continuity as they formulate their plans
for metric projects. Almost all of the States continued their metric
conversion activities to meet the previously established deadline and
are either awarding contracts in metric or plan to do so in the near
future. Comments of State transportation agencies introduced here
support the view that availability of these metric standards will
assist States markedly in developing and achieving uniformity in
project plans and in adopting metric standards for traffic engineering.
Furthermore, we expect these particular metric values to be used on
an interim basis only until the MUTCD with design values converted to
the metric system is adopted and published.
Prior notice and opportunity for comment are not required under the
Department of Transportation's Regulatory Policies and Procedures
because it is not anticipated that such action will result in the
receipt of useful information. The FHWA has determined that the AASHTO
interim metric values come as close as possible to retaining the
English measurements already adopted by the FHWA pursuant to notice and
comment rulemaking, and express adoption of these metric values now
provides necessary certainty and continuity for States and other FHWA
partners, including highway construction contractors. For these
reasons, we adhere to the view that, consistent with 5 U.S.C.
553(d)(3), good cause supports the FHWA's action making this final rule
effective. In addition, the FHWA believes that this final rule should
be effective immediately upon publication.
The APA also allows agencies, upon a finding of good cause, to make
a rule effective immediately and avoid the 30-day delayed effective
date requirement. 5 U.S.C. 553(d)(3). The FHWA has determined that good
cause exists to make this rule effective upon publication because the
rule provides information to States for their use in contracting with
private contractors for the construction of highways. Making this rule
effective upon publication will enable States to begin incorporating
metric units now. Furthermore, since this was published as an interim
final rule, it is already effective. Therefore, no
good purpose would be served by delaying the effective date of this
In addition to implementing the interim rule as a final rule, the
FHWA is making one additional change. The FHWA is eliminating 23 CFR
655.601(e)--Pavement Marking Demonstration Program, FHWA, 23 CFR part
920. Paragraph (e) is a cross reference to 23 CFR part 920 which no
longer exists, thereby making paragraph (e) obsolete.
Based on an analysis of public comments received, the FHWA has
examined its determination that the AASHTO publications adopted by this
rule are acceptable as the basis for the design of signs and pavement
markings for streets and highways open to public travel.
Rulemaking Analyses and Notices
Administrative Procedure Act
The Administrative Procedure Act provides that an agency may
dispense with prior notice and opportunity for comment when the agency
for good cause finds that such procedures are impracticable,
unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest. 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(3)(B).
The FHWA has determined that prior notice and opportunity for comment
are unnecessary in the elimination of 23 CFR 655.601(e). Paragraph (e)
cross references 23 CFR part 920. The Pavement Marking Demonstration
Program expired. The DOT issued an NPRM on May 20, 1992, at 57 FR
21362, giving notice and providing an opportunity for comments. Part
920 was removed in a final rule on December 22, 1992, at 57 FR 60725.
Comments regarding a reference to a nonexistent program are
unnecessary. Therefore, notice and opportunity for comment are not
Executive Order 12866 (Regulatory Planning and Review) and DOT
Regulatory Policies and Procedures
The FHWA has determined that this action is not a significant
regulatory action within the meaning of Executive Order 12866 or
significant within the meaning of Department of Transportation
regulatory policies and procedures. As stated previously, the FHWA has
determined that the interim metric values selected by the AASHTO
documents are functionally equivalent to English system measurements
previously adopted by notice and comment rulemaking. It is anticipated
that the economic impact of the rulemaking will be minimal. The
additional guidance and clarification provided by this final amendment
will improve application of traffic control devices at little
additional expense to public agencies or the motoring public.
Therefore, a full regulatory evaluation is not required.
Regulatory Flexibility Act
In compliance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (Pub. L. 96-354,
5 U.S.C. 601-612), the FHWA has evaluated the effects of this action on
small entities. This final amendment provides expanded guidance and
clarification for traffic control devices. Based on the evaluation, the
FHWA hereby certifies that this action will not have a significant
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities.
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act
This rule does not impose a Federal mandate resulting in the
expenditure by State, local, and tribal governments, in the aggregate,
or by the private section, of $100 million or more in any one year (2
Executive Order 12612 (Federalism Assessment)
This action has been analyzed in accordance with the principles and
criteria contained in Executive Order 12612, and it has been determined
that this action would not have sufficient federalism implications to
warrant the preparation of a federalism assessment. The MUTCD is
incorporated by reference in 23 CFR part 655, subpart F, which requires
that changes to the national standards issued by the FHWA shall be
adopted by the States or other Federal agencies within two years of
issuance. These amendments are in keeping with the Secretary of
Transportation's authority under 23 U.S.C. 109(d), 315, and 402(a) to
promulgate uniform guidelines to promote the safe and efficient use of
the highway. To the extent that these amendments override any existing
State requirements regarding traffic control devices, they do so in the
interests of national uniformity.
Executive Order 12372 (Intergovernmental Review)
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Program Number 20.205,
Highway Planning and Construction. The regulations implementing
Executive Order 12372 regarding intergovernmental consultation on
Federal programs and activities apply to this program.
Paperwork Reduction Act
This action does not contain a collection of information
requirement for purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, 44
U.S.C. 3501 et seq.
National Environmental Policy Act
The agency has analyzed this action for the purpose of the National
Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and has
determined that this action would not have any effect on the quality of
Regulation Identification Number
A regulation identification number (RIN) is assigned to each
regulatory action listed in the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations.
The Regulatory Information Service Center publishes the Unified Agenda
in April and October of each year. The RIN contained in the heading of
this document can be used to cross reference this action with the
List of Subjects in 23 CFR Part 655
Design standards, Grant programs--transportation, Highways and
roads, Incorporation by reference, Signs and symbols, and Traffic
Accordingly, the FHWA hereby adopts as final its interim final rule
amending 23 CFR part 655 published at 61 FR 29624 on June 11, 1996,
with changes as set forth below:
PART 655--TRAFFIC OPERATIONS
1. The authority citation for part 655 continues to read as
Authority: 23 U.S.C. 101(a), 104, 105, 109(d), 114(a), 135, 217,
307, 315, and 402(a); 23 CFR 1.32; and 49 CFR 1.48(b).
2. In Sec. 655.601, revise paragraphs (c) and (d), and remove
paragraph (e), to read as follows:
Sec. 655.601 Purpose.
* * * * *
(c) Guide to Metric Conversion, AASHTO, 1993. This publication is
incorporated by reference in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(a) and 1 CFR
part 51 and is on file at the Office of the Federal Register, 800 North
Capitol Street, NW., Suite 700, Washington, DC. This document is
available for inspection as provided in 49 CFR part 7. It may be
purchased from the American Association of State Highway and
Transportation Officials, Suite 249, 444 North Capitol Street, NW.,
Washington, DC 20001.
(d) Traffic Engineering Metric Conversion Factors, 1993--Addendum
to the Guide to Metric Conversion, AASHTO, October 1993. This
publication is incorporated by reference
in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 552(a) and 1 CFR part 51 and is on file at
the Office of the Federal Register, 800 North Capitol Street, NW.,
Suite 700, Washington, DC. This document is available for inspection as
provided in 49 CFR part 7. It may be purchased from the American
Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Suite 249,
444 North Capitol Street, NW., Washington, DC 20001.
Issued on: June 17, 1999.
Gloria J. Jeff,
Federal Highway Deputy Administrator.
[FR Doc. 99-16027 Filed 6-23-99; 8:45 am]
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