Setting a New Course for the MUTCD

By Mr. Jeffrey Paniati P.E posted 24 days ago

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) may be the singular most influential transportation publication in the United States. This Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)-issued publication applies to all roads open to public travel in the United States. From the moment you leave your house—by car, by bike, scooter, or on foot—your travel is influenced by the MUTCD. A number of organizations have been making this point when responding to the current Notice of Proposed Amendments (NPA) to update the Manual for the first time in 11 years, which resulted in more than 25,000 comments to the docket. Compared to the approximately 2,000 responses received the last time the MUTCD was updated, you can sense the elevated level of attention the NPA is getting this time around.

ITE’s response is available on our website at Our Board of Direction, volunteers, and staff have done a masterful job in representing ITE member interests. Our of representatives from the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD), key ITE Technical Councils and Committees, ITE staff, and individual members completed a thorough review of the 800 pages of proposed changes, identifying the changes we support and making suggestions for improvement.

Our team highlighted the most important issues at hand, identifying three main themes and more than 20 specific areas of comment. First, we encouraged FHWA to consider the needs of all users. While progress was made in the NPA, we identified a number of opportunities to better meet the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists. Vulnerable road safety must be prioritized over vehicle movement in the selection of traffic control devices. Second, we asked FHWA to provide users of the MUTCD with greater flexibility and opportunities to innovate. The MUTCD should provide sound guidance on minimum requirements for consistently selecting and using traffic control devices, but should avoid being a design guide. In our view, FHWA took a more restrictive approach and missed the opportunity to make the experimentation process easier for jurisdictions to navigate. Finally, we encouraged FHWA to take a forward-looking posture with the Manual. The MUTCD must be a more nimble document, able to adapt to changing conditions, updated practices, and new research results. We also encouraged reexamination of the fundamental underpinnings of the Manual, some of which are decades old.

I have no doubt that this heightened attention to the MUTCD will result in significant changes to the Manual. While we support rethinking what the MUTCD should look like in the longer term, an updated version of the Manual is desperately needed to save lives today. This current spotlight on the Manual will result in wider engagement in the process of defining the future of the MUTCD. It is important that ITE be at the center of this engagement, as we have been throughout this document’s 86-year history.

While we will work hard to represent your interests, it is also important that members participate in the NCUTCD process. Starting on page 37, an article provides an overview of the MUTCD update process and how you can be involved in reviewing proposals for potential changes to the Manual. Please consider sharing your time and expertise. As always you can reach me on the ITE e-Community or on Twitter: @JPaniatiITE.

This is taken from the Director's Message from the July 2021 issue of ITE Journal.