States Challenged by 2009 MUTCD Deadlines

The safety elements of our roads and highways shouldn't be left behind.

Limited funding available to state highway departments may make it hard for them to upgrade traffic signs and signals to meet new requirements in the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, or MUTCD, which is the basic document controlling everything from the size and reflectivity of lettering on highway signs to the duration of flashing warning signs for pedestrians at intersections. While compliance dates were deliberately kept to a minimum in this latest MUTCD, the Federal Highway Administration has asked departments about their challenges in meeting seven compliance dates in it that are years away but will be the most challenging for states to meet, according to FHWA.

An example is minimum sign retroreflectivity requirements meant to ensure adequate nighttime visibility of traffic signs, especially for older drivers. The 2009 MUTCD sets seven-year and 10-year compliance periods that were based on the expected service life of sign sheeting materials. Another date comes in 2019, when the MUTCD requires one-way signs to be installed on the near-right and far-left corners of each intersection with the directional roadways of a divided highway having a median 30 feet wide or wider. (This was only a recommendation in the 2003 MUTCD.) FHWA said even though they were given 10 years to meet this requirement, some agencies with significant mileage of divided highways having medians 30 feet or wider may have difficulty with the deadline.

The 2009 MUTCD contains 12 new compliance dates, as well as 46 other compliance dates that had not yet been reached in 2009 that were established earlier. FHWA said it "is aware of concerns on the part of some State and local highway agencies about the potential impacts of MUTCD compliance dates in the current economic downturn, which has significantly reduced the resources available to such agencies."

Construction industry groups, DOT, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have urged Congress to spend more on highways and infrastructure. While that won't be easy to accomplish this year, the safety elements of our roads and highways shouldn't be left behind, either.

Comments were due by Jan. 14, 2011.

This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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