By Jim Rhine, ATSSA Innovation & Technical Services Manager
The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) summer meeting addressed a variety of topics including traffic signals and vulnerable road users and provided an indication that work is progressing on the updated Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).
In May, ATSSA President & CEO Stacy Tetschner sent a letter to Federal Highway Administration Administrator Shailen P. Bhatt urging the FHWA to publish the updated MUTCD by the May 15 deadline set forth in the U.S. Code. Tetschner acknowledged the “tremendous amount of work” needed to update the MUTCD but said he wanted to “stress how vital it is that this statutory deadline is met.”
Toward the end of the summer meeting of the NCUTCD, also referred to as “the National Committee,” federal officials made reference to August, suggesting work on the final rule is moving forward. However, there was no commitment that it would be published that month.
Another rulemaking effort was also discussed, the Public Right-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines PROWAG rulemaking, which will impact the MUTCD. FHWA staff said that rulemaking is making progress toward a final rule. However, FHWA is not responsible for it. The U.S. Access Board, which is an independent federal agency that promotes accessible design, is tasked with that duty. After the final rule is issued, the U.S. Department of Transportation USDOT and the U.S. Department of Justice must conduct rulemaking procedures to adopt PROWAG into federal regulations. After that step, FHWA will conduct another rulemaking to address revisions needed in the MUTCD to adopt relevant aspects of PROWAG.
Timing for those steps was not released by federal officials during the meeting, held in June in Tacoma, Wash.
Three discussions regarding traffic signals and pedestrian and vulnerable road user VRU enhancements seemed particularly relevant for ATSSA members.
Significant attention was given to simplifying the guidance documentation for improving safety for pedestrians and VRUs. In 2021 the U.S. reported the most pedestrian deaths in a single year in four decades, a 12% increase from the previous year. Street design and physical infrastructure solutions were highlighted as key components for addressing this trend. Also, digital infrastructure solutions notably enhance those efforts as an operating system for the future of mobility on physical assets.
A discussion of traffic signal operations and timing considerations focused on suggested edits to the MUTCD for Leading Pedestrian Intervals LPIs. Participants recognized the benefits of LPIs in improving pedestrian safety and proposed updates to provide clearer guidance on their use and implementation. This included recommendations for appropriate durations and signal phasing to prioritize pedestrian movements at signalized intersections.
A meeting on Adaptive Signal Control Systems ASCS explored the potential of ASCS to optimize traffic flow and enhance pedestrian and VRU safety. Suggested edits to the MUTCD included guidance on integrating and utilizing ASCS, emphasizing the importance of real-time data, adaptive signal timing and coordination strategies to accommodate changing traffic conditions and prioritize pedestrian and VRU movements.