Thousands of Americans submitted over 25,000 comments in a once-in-a-decade opportunity to ask Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to make key changes to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The manual is a regulatory document that dictates the design and implementation of road signs, signals, and markings, and by extension, what nearly every street looks like throughout the United States.
This enormous volume of comments (a more than ten-fold increase over the last time the MUTCD was updated in 2009) demonstrates the degree to which Americans want change. In addition, detailed, technical comments from dozens of major U.S. cities, transit agencies, leading national safety groups, and other safety and environmental experts, underscore the high level of public concern about the poor safety record of U.S. roads and a strong desire for FHWA to take decisive action to save lives and reduce transportation emissions.
As the Federal comment period closed on the revised Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, a chorus of leading transportation agencies is pressing the Biden Administration to implement bold changes that will better align America’s road system with safety, sustainability, and equity goals and to ensure that the process for finalizing and adopting the 11th edition of the MUTCD, and all future editions, is robust, transparent, and inclusive.
“As our city works on ambitious plans to make our streets safer and more accessible, from building a bikeway network to addressing systemic safety concerns, we are too often finding that the MUTCD conflicts with new mobility best practices,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “The federal manual must be reformed so that it more closely aligns with the equity, safety, and sustainability goals of the Biden Administration.”
“For a field focused on movement, American transportation often suffers from inertia. Just look at our federal roadway standards, which maintain the status quo despite a traffic violence epidemic,” said Corinne Kisner, Executive Director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). “To make our streets safe, sustainable, and equitable, FHWA must commit to reforming this motor-centric regulatory document that affects every street in the country, and upgrade it to better reflect how we actually use, and want to use, our streets.”
“Making walking and moving easier outside of cars is one of the best ways to dramatically improve the social, physical, mental, and economic health of any place. Yet an outdated federal manual puts barriers to making more walkable, accessible places,” said Mike McGinn, Executive Director of America Walks. “The broad coalition advocating for a new MUTCD–from practitioners to community members – knows this, and we await an indication from the feds about whether they know this, too.”
“American streets are unsafe because of how they are designed. And the way they’re designed often comes down to five letters: the MUTCD,” said Beth Osborne, Director of Transportation for America. “If this administration is serious about its safety, climate, and equity goals, it will take the reins on updating this outdated and dangerous document.”
“To move forward – to “build back better” – and reduce traffic violence that is far too common and accepted in the United States, the MUTCD needs to prioritize safety and the accessibility and use of roads by all people, moving by all types of transportation,” said Bill Nesper, Executive Director of the League of American Bicyclists. “The MUTCD is a major barrier to safer, Bicycle Friendly Communities, and reforming it is one major step to making it so all Americans can safely and comfortably enjoy and access their community by bike.”