[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 121 (Thursday, June 24, 1999)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 33751-33754]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-16027]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Highway Administration

23 CFR Part 655

[FHWA Docket No. FHWA-97-2353; 96-20]
RIN 2125-AD63


National Standards for Traffic Control Devices; Metric Conversion

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.

ACTION: Final rule.

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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.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Electronic Access

    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 
help.
    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: 
http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara.
    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 
URL: http://www.ohs.fhwa.dot.gov/devices/mutcd.html. 

Background

    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

[[Page 33752]]

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 
markings.
    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 
2001.
    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

[[Page 33753]]

good purpose would be served by delaying the effective date of this 
rule.
    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.

Review Procedure

    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 
required.

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 
U.S.C. 1532).

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 
the environment.

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 
Unified Agenda.

List of Subjects in 23 CFR Part 655

    Design standards, Grant programs--transportation, Highways and 
roads, Incorporation by reference, Signs and symbols, and Traffic 
regulations.

    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 
follows:

    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).

Subpart F--[Amended]

    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

[[Page 33754]]

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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