ITE Journal - July 2021 - 39

released in 2009. Previous editions were released in 1942 (the Wartime
Emergency Edition), 1948, 1961, 1971, 1978, 1988, 2000, and 2003.
Revising the Manual. Because the MUTCD is required to be
used on all roadways open to public travel, making changes to the
Manual is a complex undertaking, one that requires use of the
federal rulemaking process.
As the owner of the document, the FHWA Office of Operations
has a team responsible for all-things MUTCD. This office answers
questions, makes interpretations, provides technical assistance and
training, and is responsible for updating or revising the content in
the Manual.
To issue such revisions and updates, FHWA must go through a
public process of describing what's being proposed, what changes
it's seeking, why those changes are being proposed, and what the
likely impact of those changes are-both positive and negative. For
example, when the 2009 Manual was adopted, more than 2,000
public comments were received that identified around 15,000 issues.
All of those comments had to be addressed by FHWA before the
new version of the MUTCD was finalized.
In between new editions of the MUTCD, FHWA can support
advancements in traffic control devices and practices through
Interim Approvals (IAs) and interpretations, which allow the
devices to be approved for use until they can go through the
Chronology of the Manual on
Uniform Traffic Control Devices
November 1935 - First MUTCD
The American Association of State Highway Officials
(AASHO) was founded in 1914, and a 1927 AASHO report
became the basis for the first traffic signs guidebook,
Manual and Specifications for the Manufacture, Display, and
Erection of U.S. Standard Road Markers and Signs. However,
this manual addressed only use and design for signs on
rural roads. The Manual on Street Traffic Signs, Signals, and
Markings was published in 1930 to address urban traffic
control devices, but the use of two separate manuals for rural and urban roads
proved confusing. In November 1935, AASHO and the National Conference on
Street and Highway Safety formed the first Joint Committee on Uniform Traffic
Control Devices, and the first edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control
Devices (MUTCD) was published.
November 1942 - The War Emergency Edition
Because of the war's many restraints on highway
travel and traffic control in the United States, the
Joint Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices
reconvened in May 1942 to consider revisions to the
original MUTCD. The committee agreed to a manual with
emergency standards for traffic control devices adapted
to existing and foreseeable wartime conditions.
1948 Edition
After World War II, traffic engineers recognized they had
a unique opportunity to quickly adopt the standards of a
new MUTCD as a result of wartime limitations on traffic
control devices. The Joint Committee on Uniform Traffic
Control Devices began meeting in 1944 to prepare a
new edition of the manual that would incorporate all the
lessons learned since 1935.
1961 Edition
The 1961 MUTCD was the first new edition to come out
since 1948. This edition " provided greater uniformity by
eliminating many of the alternatives permitted in the
previous edition and by replacing them with a single
standard. " 5
The Bureau of Public Roads also required
that all traffic control devices used on federal-aid
highways should conform to the new manual, marking
the first time compliance with MUTCD standards was
tied to receiving federal highway funds.
ITE has periodically requested that FHWA issue Interim Approvals for
issues affecting vulnerable road users, including bicycle signal faces and
red-colored pavement for transit lanes.
1971 Edition
More than half the changes made to the MUTCD in the 1971
edition were in the signing part of the Manual. New symbol
signs were provided as alternatives for word signs. The option
of using a black-on-white color scheme for guide signs on
conventional roads was eliminated, and a new requirement
that all guide signs be white-on-green was added.
CONTINUED ON PAGE 40
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