[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 116 (Monday, June 17, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 36132-36134]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-14266]



[[Page 36132]]

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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Highway Administration

23 CFR Part 655

[FHWA Docket No. FHWA-2012-0118]


National Standards for Traffic Control Devices; Manual on Uniform 
Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.

ACTION: Notification; response to comments.

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SUMMARY: The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) is 
incorporated in our regulations, approved by the Federal Highway 
Administration, and recognized as the national standard for traffic 
control devices used on all streets, highways, bikeways, and private 
roads open to public travel. Consistent with Executive Order 13563, and 
in particular its emphasis on burden-reduction and on retrospective 
analysis of existing rules, a Request for Comments was published on 
January 11, 2013, to solicit input on potential formats for 
restructuring the MUTCD into two documents, one that would be subject 
to rulemaking and one that would contain supplemental information that 
is not subject to rulemaking. One hundred and sixty-nine unique letters 
were received and this document provides a summary of the input from 
these letters. Given the lack of support from the MUTCD user community, 
the FHWA will not proceed with restructuring the MUTCD into two 
documents at this time.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For questions about the program 
discussed herein, contact Mr. Chung Eng, MUTCD Team Leader, FHWA Office 
of Transportation Operations, (202) 366-8043 or via email at 
chung.eng@dot.gov. For legal questions, please contact Mr. William 
Winne, Office of the Chief Counsel, (202) 366-1397, or via email at 
william.winne@dot.gov. Office hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 
e.t., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Electronic Access and Filing

    This document, all comments, and the request for comments notice 
may be viewed on line through the Federal eRulemaking portal at: http://www.regulations.gov. The docket identification number is FHWA-2012-
0118. The Web site is available 24 hours each day, 365 days each year. 
Anyone is able to search the electronic form of all comments in any of 
our dockets by the name of the individual submitting the comment (or 
signing the comment, if submitted on behalf of an association, 
business, or labor union). You may review DOT's complete Privacy Act 
Statement in the Federal Register published on April 11, 2000 (Volume 
65, Number 70, Pages 19477-78), or you may visit http://DocketsInfo.dot.gov.

Request for Comments

    On January 11, 2013, the FHWA published a Request for Comments at 
78 FR 2347 (Docket ID: FHWA-2012-0118) soliciting input on the option 
of splitting the material in the MUTCD into two separate documents in 
the interest of providing a simpler, streamlined MUTCD that would be 
easier to use, and that would address concerns regarding its increasing 
size and complexity. Two potential formats for dividing the MUTCD 
content into a streamlined MUTCD and a companion Applications 
Supplement were presented for consideration along with nine specific 
questions. The specific questions posed in the Request for Comments 
were primarily based on the premise that splitting the MUTCD into two 
documents would be the preferred solution.

Summary of Responses

    The FHWA received comments from 40 State DOT representatives, 26 
local agencies, 17 associations, 34 consultants, 3 vendors and 49 
private citizens. Out of 169 unique letters received, 155 (92%) of the 
letters were either against splitting the MUTCD into 2 separate 
documents, or recommended postponing any action to split the manual 
pending results from the ongoing National Cooperative Highway Research 
Program (NCHRP) strategic planning effort, which are expected to be 
available in January 2014. The strategic planning effort will be 
addressing many issues that would impact future MUTCD content and 
structure, including consideration of an MUTCD that would consist of 
more than one volume.
    At least one-half of the State DOT's, local agencies, associations, 
consultants, citizens, stakeholders, and vendors who commented all 
suggested waiting until the NCHRP strategic planning effort was 
complete before making a decision about splitting the MUTCD content. In 
addition to requesting that the FHWA wait for the results of the NCHRP 
strategic planning effort, many State and local agencies, associations, 
and consultants suggested that if a decision were to be made to 
restructure the MUTCD in any significant way, it would be critical for 
FHWA to partner with stakeholders, to develop content for a 
restructured MUTCD.
    In addition to requesting public comment on the option of splitting 
the material in the MUTCD into two separate documents, the FHWA 
requested input on nine questions, many of which were directly related 
to the concept of splitting the MUTCD into two documents. Given the 
significant number of responses against splitting the manual, this 
discussion of the comments will focus primarily on the rationale 
commenters gave for their opposition or concerns related to splitting 
the manual as well as input from commenters on alternatives to 
splitting the manual. Should the results of the NCHRP strategic 
planning effort reveal that separating the MUTCD into more than one 
volume is desirable; the input from commenters directly related to the 
specifics of splitting the MUTCD into two documents will be analyzed in 
further detail as part of developing the next edition of the MUTCD.
    Several commenters, including State and local agencies as well as 
the Institute of Transportation Engineers, indicated that the amount of 
information in the MUTCD and resulting size is not the issue; rather, 
the organization of the information is far more critical. In addition, 
many commenters felt that separating the material into two documents 
could potentially increase, rather than decrease, the amount of 
material included in the MUTCD. Commenters felt that working from two 
books would cause unnecessary confusion because users would have to 
determine how to correctly apply the information from two different 
documents. Ultimately, commenters felt that uniformity in application 
of the MUTCD's provisions could begin to degrade as practitioners 
navigate between the two documents, leading to a potential decrease in 
safety. Finally, several commenters expressed concern that an 
Applications Supplement would be difficult for the FHWA to maintain in 
a consistent, timely manner and could potentially experience the same 
fate as the Traffic Engineering Manual, which was developed to 
supplement the 1978 MUTCD, but was not updated.
    Aside from the potential difficulties associated with using two 
documents, several commenters raised issues regarding the legal status 
of the applications document. Commenters expressed concerns that some 
State or local agencies may choose not to recognize or use the 
Applications Supplement, and those who may need the supplemental 
information the most may not refer to the Applications

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Supplement because it is not required. Furthermore, public agencies 
suggested that the standard for due care in tort liability cases could 
be negatively impacted since material in the Applications Supplement 
would no longer be part of the national standard. An association, a 
consultant, and a vendor stated that some agencies could find 
themselves under political pressure to ignore the Guidance statements 
in the Applications Supplement, since it is not required.
    Over 30 State DOTs adopt either their own State MUTCD or adopt the 
National MUTCD with a State Supplement. Many State DOTs also develop 
their own policies based on the National MUTCD. Commenters indicated 
that creating two separate documents would make it more difficult for 
those agencies that choose to adopt both manuals to adapt their own 
material into the MUTCD and Applications Supplement and incorporate the 
materials into policy.
    Several State and local DOT's, and consultants suggested that the 
proposed split does not meet the intent of the Executive Order 13563 to 
conduct a government wide review of rules and regulations that are 
``outdated'' or ``unnecessary.'' One of the commenters stated that the 
MUTCD is neither outdated nor unnecessary. The MUTCD is incorporated in 
Federal regulations as the national standard for traffic control 
devices, and in some States is adopted as part of the State code. The 
commenter suggested that there has not been a comprehensive analysis to 
suggest that restructuring the MUTCD would be the most appropriate 
means of accomplishing the goals of this Executive Order. Some of the 
comments suggested that reorganizing and streamlining the content would 
be more consistent with the objectives of the Executive Order than 
splitting the content into two documents. Other comments suggested that 
splitting the MUTCD provides more burden on the FHWA, State DOT's, and 
local agencies because more resources will be required to review and 
manage two documents (or four if a State creates its own supplements 
for each document) as compared to one document.
    Within their answers to the question on other potential options for 
splitting the MUTCD, four State DOT's, five local agencies, two 
associations, seven consultants, and four citizens suggested 
alternatives to the method FHWA proposed splitting the content. Some of 
the alternatives included separating Part 2 (signs) from the rest of 
the MUTCD, separating Part 6 (temporary traffic control) from the rest 
of the MUTCD, providing a multivolume document and limiting the 
rulemaking to one volume, and splitting the content so that one 
document is for ``simple'' jurisdiction settings and the second is for 
more ``complex'' jurisdiction settings. Other commenters said they 
support exploring other alternatives. Five State DOT's, six local 
agencies, nine citizens, three associations, and two consultants 
suggested reorganizing or streamlining the MUTCD instead of splitting 
the content.
    As the FHWA moves forward, we will explore several of the 
reorganizing and streamlining suggestions to make the next edition of 
the MUTCD more user-friendly. The FHWA is reviewing options to better 
organize the technical content so that MUTCD users can find information 
more easily. Such options range from reorganizing information within 
individual parts and sections of the MUTCD to reviewing content to 
identify redundant or unnecessary language that could be removed. To 
help users find information more quickly, the FHWA may separate 
especially lengthy sections into several shorter sections. The FHWA is 
reviewing opportunities to add more figures and tables to replace 
corresponding text; as well as reassessing the size and content of the 
figures themselves.
    In addition to formatting and reorganizing, the FHWA is exploring 
new enhancements to make the MUTCD content easier to find. Preliminary 
options for the electronic version are adding cross-indexing, exploring 
ways to expand hot links and pop-ups as well as smart search options. 
The FHWA realizes more and more users are likely to use the electronic 
version and therefore it needs to be developed in such a manner that it 
can be used from a number of electronic devices including computers, 
tablets, and smart phones. Enhancing search capabilities and 
incorporating additional hot links, pop-ups for definitions, and 
graphics, for example, are all components that are under consideration 
as the FHWA develops ideas for the next edition of the MUTCD.
    A few commenters suggested presenting traffic control device 
information more in a modular, tabular format, such as a ``fact sheet'' 
and provided examples. The FHWA is reviewing some alternatives to do 
this; however, it is unclear at this time where this material would be 
located. It could be included within the MUTCD or as part of an 
applications document or the Standard Highway Signs Manual. Other 
commenters requested narrative guidance for traffic control devices. 
This narrative may also be appropriate in a separate accompanying 
document.
    In addition to providing comments about the MUTCD structure and 
content, several commenters provided input related to the process used 
to regulate the MUTCD. Clearly, many commenters felt that stakeholder 
input into Standards in the MUTCD is a critical component of the 
rulemaking process even though it can be cumbersome and lengthy. Some 
commenters suggested that a mechanism for distinguishing between 
regulatory information, subject to rulemaking, and guidance or 
supplementary information, not subject to rulemaking, could provide a 
means for reducing the burden associated with the rulemaking process. 
In such a scenario there was consent that the material should still be 
contained within one document, rather than split into two documents.
    Commenters were also asked to describe the use of the printed 
version of the MUTCD within their agency compared to the electronic 
version and which version they preferred to use along with their 
rationale. The FHWA received comments from 29 State DOT's, 10 
associations, 10 local agencies, 11 consultants, 13 citizens, 1 
committee, and 1 vendor stating that they or their organization use 
both the printed and electronic versions and suggested that both the 
electronic and printed versions should be maintained. Several of the 
commenters noted that while the electronic version is commonly used, 
there is also a need to retain the MUTCD as a printable document to 
provide project documentation or to highlight a specific statement when 
communicating within their agency or with project stakeholders. The 
FHWA received comments from four State DOT's, four local agencies, one 
association, three consultants, and three citizens stating a preference 
for the electronic version. The commenters who preferred the electronic 
version cited the ability to search quickly for information, easier 
navigation through hotlinks/bookmarks, portability, and having the 
flexibility to build in enhanced features now and in the future as key 
reasons as to why they preferred the electronic version. The FHWA 
received comments from one State DOT, three associations, three local 
agencies, and one citizen stating a preference for the printed version. 
The commenters who preferred the printed version stated that field 
personnel do not have access to the electronic version, not all workers 
have access to computers, and convenience of use in an office 
environment as their primary

[[Page 36134]]

reason for preferring the printed version.

Conclusion

    Given the lack of support from the MUTCD user community, the FHWA 
will not proceed with splitting the MUTCD into two documents at this 
time. Instead, we will focus on options that would make the MUTCD 
easier to use. We believe that focusing on these types of options while 
continuing to explore ways to enhance and streamline the current MUTCD 
updating process will best serve the user community. The FHWA will use 
the valuable information offered in the responses to guide our approach 
to updating the MUTCD.

    Authority:  23 U.S.C. 101(a), 104, 109(d), 114(a), 217, 315, and 
402(a); 23 CFR 1.32; and, 49 CFR 1.85.

    Issued On: June 8, 2013.
Victor M. Mendez,
Administrator, Federal Highway Administration.
[FR Doc. 2013-14266 Filed 6-14-13; 8:45 am]
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