The Federal Highway Administration is working on the 11th edition of the MUTCD Manual. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, is the national guide for the standards for regulatory signs, property, and warning signs. To comply with Federal Law, all U.S. traffic software, fonts, and colors must conform to these rules. The issue is that MUTCD has hada tunnel vision perspective on prioritizing only driving before pedestrians and people on bike. This manual sets the rules and parameters of what traffic sign designers and engineers are willing to put on our streets based on if the MUTCD manual allows it or not.
The manual has not seen an update since 2009 and the FWHA has released drafts and early access to the next edition. Transportation municipalities and advocates have requested restructure and rewrite the MUTCD manual.
Many are concerned at the 80% funding going to highways and roads over the 2% meant for pedestrian safety.
The Chicago Department of Transportation is lobbying for the feds to make a new edition of the manual to be more “people-friendly”. The CDOT chief Gia Biagi requested an expedited reframing of the MUTCD as a safety regulation.
CDOT has strongly recommended the FHWA to radically change the MUTCD so it will comply to safety in a “comprehensive manner and reflect leadership of equal economic development in our streets”, said Biagi.
Biagi argued “far too focused on motor vehicle operations and perpetuates the status quo by placing higher burdens of proof and restrictions on implementing and innovating traffic control devices for walking, biking, transit, and multi-modal safety.”
Biagi highlighted the following “fundamental problems” that need to be addressed in the next rewrite:
- New barriers to implementing bike and transit infrastructure have been included in the new draft.
- Requirements for installing new stoplights “that ignore known conflicts and land use and stifle the ability to be proactive about safety before [emphasis added] people are killed or injured.”
- Traffic control devices that are time-tested in cities, like red transit lanes and pedestrian safety strategies, “are subject to unreasonably high standards of testing.”
- Too much emphasis on self-driving vehicles, which are still in the early stages of development, at the expense of other modes.
- New language that dictates that right-of-way be dedicated only to “highway-related functions,” “undermining placemaking efforts that are proven to improve safety.”
If CDOT gets the FHWA to comply with these demands, we will see a new MUTCD 11th edition traffic software be released soon!