DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Highway Administration
23 CFR Part 655
[FHWA Docket No. FHWA-97-3032]
Revision of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices:
General Provisions and Traffic Control for School Areas
AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.
ACTION: Notice of proposed amendments to the Manual on Uniform Traffic
Control Devices (MUTCD); Request for Comments.
SUMMARY: The MUTCD is incorporated by reference in 23 CFR part 655,
subpart F, approved by the Federal Highway Administrator, and
recognized as the national standard for traffic control on all public
roads. The FHWA announced its intent to rewrite and reformat the MUTCD
on January 10, 1992, at 57 FR 1134. This document proposes new text for
the MUTCD in Part 1, General Provisions, and Part 7, Traffic Control
for School Areas. The purpose of this effort is to reformat the text
for clarity of intended meanings, to include metric dimensions and
values for the design and installation of traffic control devices, and
to improve the overall organization and discussion of the contents in
the MUTCD. The proposed changes to the MUTCD are intended to expedite
traffic, promote uniformity, improve safety, and incorporate technology
advances in traffic control device application.
DATES: Submit comments on or before September 8, 1998.
ADDRESSES: Signed, written comments should refer to the docket number
that appears at the top of this document and must be submitted to the
Docket Clerk, U.S. DOT Dockets, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh Street, SW.,
Washington, DC 20590-0001. All comments received will be available for
examination at the above address between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., e.t.,
Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. Those desiring
notification of receipt of comments must include a self-addressed,
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For information regarding the notice
of proposed amendments contact Ms. Linda Brown, Office of Highway
Safety, Room 3414, (202) 366-2192, or Mr. Raymond Cuprill, Office of
Chief Counsel, Room 4217, (202) 366-0834, Department of Transportation,
Federal Highway Administration, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC
20590. The proposed text for Parts 1 and 7 of the MUTCD is available
from the FHWA Office of Highway Safety (HHS-10). It is also available
on the FHWA home page at the following Internet address: http://
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The 1988 MUTCD is available for inspection
and copying as prescribed in 49 CFR Part 7, appendix D. It may be
purchased for $44.00 from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S.
Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954,
Stock No. 650-001-00001-0. This notice is being issued to provide an
opportunity for public comment on the desirability of proposed
amendments to the MUTCD. Based on the comments submitted and upon its
own experience, the FHWA will issue a final rule concerning the
proposed changes included in this notice.
The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD)
has taken the lead in this effort to rewrite and reformat the MUTCD.
The NCUTCD is a national organization of individuals from the American
Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the
Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), the National Association
of County Engineers (NACE), the American Public Works Association
(APWA), and other organizations that have extensive
experience in the installation and maintenance of traffic control
Although the MUTCD will be revised in its entirety, it will be done
in phases due to the enormous volume of text. The FHWA reviewed the
NCUTCD's recommendations for MUTCD Part 3--Markings, Part 4--Signals,
and Part 8--Traffic Control for Roadway-Rail Intersections. The
proposed text for Parts 3, 4, and 8 was published as Phase 1 of the
MUTCD rewrite effort in a previous notice of proposed amendment dated
January 6, 1997, at 62 FR 691.
This notice of proposed amendment is Phase 2 of the MUTCD rewrite
effort and includes the proposed text for MUTCD Part 1, General
Provisions, and MUTCD Part 7, Traffic Control for School Areas. The
public will have an opportunity to review and comment on the remaining
parts of the MUTCD in a future notice of proposed amendment. The FHWA
invites comments on the proposed text for Part 1 and Part 7 of the
MUTCD. A summary of the significant changes contained in these sections
of the Manual is provided in this notice of proposed amendment.
The proposed new style of the MUTCD would be a 3-ring binder with
8\1/2\ x 11 inch pages. Each part of the MUTCD would be printed
separately in a bound format and then included in the 3-ring binder. If
someone needed to reference information on a specific part of the
MUTCD, it would be easy to remove that individual part from the binder.
The proposed new text would be in column format and contain four
categories as follows: (1) Standards--representing ``shall''
conditions; (2) Guidance--representing ``should'' conditions; (3)
Options-- representing ``may'' conditions; and (4) Support--
representing descriptive and/or general information. This new format
would make it easier to distinguish standards, guidance, and optional
conditions for the design, placement, and application of traffic
control devices. For review purposes during this rewrite effort,
dimensions will be shown in both metric and English units. This will
make it easier to compare text shown in the 1988 Edition with the
proposed new edition. However, the adopted final version of the new
MUTCD will be solely in metric units.
This effort to rewrite and reformat the MUTCD will be an ongoing
activity over the next 2-3 years. Some of the other issues which will
be addressed in future notices of proposed amendment are: minimum
retroreflectivity standards for signs and pavement markings; signing
for low-volume rural roads; and traffic control for light-rail grade
crossings. These proposed changes to the MUTCD are intended to expedite
traffic, promote uniformity, improve safety, and incorporate technology
advances in traffic control device application.
Discussion of Proposed Amendments to Part 1--General Provisions
The following items are the most significant proposed revisions to
Under the category heading STANDARD, the FHWA proposes to include
the definition of ``traffic control devices'' which is also included in
the proposed Section 1A.14, Definition of Words and Phrases. Also
proposed is a discussion of 23 CFR part 655, subpart F, related to the
MUTCD and the FHWA policies and procedures. Under the category heading
SUPPORT, the FHWA proposes to include a discussion of the FHWA role and
additional history regarding the MUTCD.
Purpose of Traffic Control Devices
In Section 1A.1, the FHWA proposes to use the term ``road users''
since it encompasses both motorized and non-motorized traffic.
Principles of Traffic Control Devices
In Section 1A.2, under the category heading GUIDANCE, the FHWA
proposes to include ``speed'' as a consideration that should govern the
design, operation, placement, and location of various traffic control
devices since the traveling speed of road users can affect their
ability to appropriately respond to the driving task.
In this same section, the FHWA proposes to include a reference to
23 CFR part 655, subpart F, which contains the policies and procedures
that address the requirement for national uniformity of traffic control
devices on all streets and highways. The last paragraph in this same
section is new. The FHWA proposes to include this new discussion to
make sure that the minimum capabilities of the road users as described
in the Uniform Vehicle Code are considered when selecting, installing,
and maintaining traffic control devices.
Design of Traffic Control Devices
In Section 1A.3, under the category heading STANDARD, the FHWA
proposes to add the word ``colors'' to the statement that all signs
shall be adopted using the procedures described in Section 1A.11. The
FHWA also proposes adding a statement under the category heading OPTION
to explain that State and local highway agencies may develop word
message signs to notify road users of special regulations or to warn of
special situations or hazards.
Maintenance of Traffic Control Devices
In Section 1A.5, the FHWA proposes to include language to explain
the difference between functional and physical maintenance. Functional
maintenance is required to determine if a certain traffic control
device needs to be updated to meet current and changing traffic
conditions. In addition, physical maintenance is recommended to ensure
that the device is legible, visible, and operating properly.
Responsibility of Traffic Control Devices
In Section 1A.7, the FHWA proposes to reference 23 CFR 655.603
which adopts the MUTCD as the national standard for all traffic control
devices on any street, highway, or bicycle trail open to public travel
and which requires that any State or other Federal agency MUTCD shall
be in substantial conformance with the national MUTCD.
The 1988 MUTCD states that all traffic control devices must only be
installed by a public authority or other official jurisdiction. The
FHWA proposes to expand the wording in this sentence to cover not only
traffic control devices but other signs and messages within the highway
right-of-way. The 1988 MUTCD also states that any unauthorized sign
placed on the highway right-of-way by a private organization or
individual constitutes a public nuisance. The FHWA proposes to expand
this wording to cover not only signs but any unauthorized traffic
Engineering Study or Judgment Required
In the 1988 MUTCD the terms engineering judgment and engineering
study were used interchangeably. The FHWA proposes to include distinct
definitions in Section 1A.14 to explain the difference between these
Meaning of Standard, Guidance, Option, and Support
In Section 1A.10, the FHWA proposes to more clearly identify
standards, guidance, option, and support information discussed in the
new edition of the MUTCD by providing appropriate headings for all
text. The FHWA also proposes to include a sentence explaining that
figures, tables, and illustrations either complement the text and/or
can constitute a standard, guidance, option, or support.
Manual Changes, Interpretations, and Authority to Experiment
In Section 1A.11, the FHWA proposes to include a new standard to
indicate that devices that do not conform to the provisions of the
MUTCD shall be prohibited unless the procedures discussed in this
section are followed.
Definition of Words and Phrases
In Section 1A.14 under the category heading STANDARDS, the FHWA
proposes to include a consolidated list of terms and their definitions
which are used in and considered important for the uniform use of the
MUTCD. This amendment contains a partial list which will be modified
and completed in the future amendments for the proposed MUTCD. The
amendments will also consider the need to repeat the definitions of
some terms in applicable Parts of the MUTCD. The last two versions of
the MUTCD defined most terms only in the text of applicable Parts,
although previous editions contained a list similar to the list
proposed. Only the term ``roadway'' was defined in Section 1A-9
Definition of Words and Phrases of the 1988 MUTCD. As in previous MUTCD
editions, the terms which are not defined in the MUTCD shall be defined
as in the MUTCD referenced documents.
In Section 1A-14, definitions are proposed for the following terms.
These terms are used throughout the 1988 and proposed versions of the
MUTCD but were not specifically defined in the 1988 version:
``approach, engineering judgment, engineering study, highway (road and
street), intersection, major roadway, minor roadway, median, network,
retroreflectivity, road user, traffic, traffic control device, train,
traveled way, vehicle, and warrant.''
In Section 1A-14 the definition of ``roadway'' is proposed to be
changed from the definition in the 1988 version of the MUTCD. The
change would exclude sidewalks and shoulders used by bicycles from
being part of the roadway. Also, the change would exclude, through the
definition of vehicle, portions of the highway where trains, including
some light rail, operate.
In Section 1A-14, definitions are proposed for the terms ``arterial
highway'' and ``collector highway.'' The definitions of these terms
would refine the proposed standards for the center line and edge line
warrants contained in two previous proposed amendments: one dated
August 2, 1996, at 61 FR 40484 and one dated January 6, 1997, at 62 FR
In Section 1A-14, the term ``bicycle path'' is proposed to replace
the term ``bicycle trail.'' This term will also be proposed in the
future amendment for the rewrite of Part 9, Traffic Control for Bicycle
In Section 1A-14, the definition for the term ``average day'' would
be changed in order to provide more specific detail. ``Average day'' is
used in Parts 2 and 4 and is defined in Part 4 of the 1988 MUTCD and in
the proposed text for the rewrite of Part 4.
In Section 1A-14, the term ``traffic gate'' is proposed to replace
the terms ``resistance gate,'' ``second gate,'' and ``warning gate.''
Discussion of Proposed Amendments to Part 7--Traffic Controls for
The following items are the most significant revisions to Part 7.
Need for Standards
In section 7A.1, a new Typical School Route Plan Map is proposed.
Paragraph 5 of this same section would be modified to include middle
and high schools in the development plans for school routes. Also,
paragraph 7 would be modified to indicate that the various types of
school area traffic control devices should also be included in a
traffic control plan.
The discussions contained in the following sections of the 1988
MUTCD are proposed for deletion: Sections 7A-5 through 7A-10, 7B-1
through 7B-4, 7B-7 and 7B-8. The information contained in these
sections can be found in Parts 1 and 2 of the MUTCD or in the Standard
Alphabets for Highway Signs and Pavement Markings.
The new heading proposed for Section 7B-1 is ``Size of School
Signs'' and a new Table 7B.1 would be added to show the dimensions and
sizes as shown in the Standard Highway Signs Book. This eliminates the
need to show the dimensions and sizes in the associated text
In section 7B.7, a new Figure 7-2 is proposed to provide guidance
on the proper placement of the School Advance Warning Sign (S1-1).
In section 7B.8 under the GUIDANCE category, it is proposed that an
engineering study should be conducted before installing the School
Crosswalk Warning sign (S2-1).
In section 7B.10, the FHWA proposes changing the title to
``Alternate Plates for School Speed Limit Assembly Signs'.
In section 7B.11, the FHWA proposes a new section to allow the
option of installing a School Speed Zone Ahead Assembly Sign in advance
of a School Speed Limit Sign or a School Speed Limit Assembly Sign. The
School Speed Zone Ahead Assembly Sign would consist of the Reduced
Speed Ahead Sign (R5-2a) with a SCHOOL plate (S4-3) mounted directly
In section 7C-4, the following new guidance information is
proposed: ``In the absence of a marked crosswalk, the Stop line should
be placed at the desired stopping point but should be placed no more
than 9m (30 feet) nor less than 1.2m (4 feet) from the nearest edge of
the intersecting traveled way.''
The FHWA proposes deleting the discussion in Chapter 7D for school
traffic signals and including a reference to the proposed text in the
rewrite of Part 4.
The FHWA proposes to modify Chapter 7E, ``Crossing Supervision'' by
deleting the discussion on legal authority for adult guards and student
patrols since the States and local agencies are responsible for
establishing laws regarding these crossing supervisors. For increased
safety, the FHWA has also added a discussion in section 7E.4 to include
guidance which provides that the uniforms they use should be of high-
visibility material which may be seen during daytime, nightime, and
Rulemaking Analyses and Notices
All comments received before the close of business on the comment
closing date indicated above will be considered and will be available
for examination in the docket at the above address. Comments received
after the comment closing date will be filed in the docket and will be
considered to the extent practicable, but the FHWA may issue a final
rule at any time after the close of the comment period. In addition to
late comments, the FHWA will also continue to file in the docket
relevant information that becomes available after the comment closing
date, and interested persons should continue to examine the docket for
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. It is anticipated that the economic
impact of this rulemaking would be minimal. The new standards and other
changes proposed in this notice are intended to improve traffic
operations and provide additional guidance, clarification, and optional
applications for traffic control devices.
The FHWA expects that these proposed changes will create uniformity and
enhance safety and mobility 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 proposed
action on small entities. This notice of proposed rulemaking adds some
new and alternative traffic control devices and traffic control device
applications. The proposed new standards and other changes are intended
to improve traffic operations, expand guidance, and clarify application
of traffic control devices. As noted previously, any expenses to public
entities or the motoring public to implement the proposed changes would
be minimal. Therefore, the FHWA hereby certifies that these proposed
revisions would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial
number of small entities.
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. The proposed amendment is 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 this amendment would override any
existing State requirements regarding traffic control devices, it does
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 655
Design standards, Grant programs--transportation, Highways and
roads, Incorporation by reference, Signs, Traffic regulations.
(23 U.S.C. 109(d), 114(a), 315, and 402(a); 23 CFR 1.32, 655.601,
655.602, and 655.603; 49 CFR 1.48)
Issued: November 25, 1997.
Kenneth R. Wykle,
Federal Highway Administrator.
[FR Doc. 97-31911 Filed 12-4-97; 8:45 am]
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