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Monday, October 3, 2011

Revised Federal Standards for Traffic Signs: Frequently Asked Questions

David Randall Peterman
Analyst in Transportation Policy

In 2007, the Federal Highway Administration of the Department of Transportation (DOT) completed a rulemaking to revise the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) standard for night-time visibility (retroreflectivity) of street signs. The new standard set a minimum measured value for the retroreflectivity of street signs and required state and local agencies to adopt a method to maintain the retroreflectivity of their signs. Communities are required to comply with this standard by 2018.

In 2010, several press reports conflated this new standard with a 2009 MUTCD revised street sign standard—one having to do with the lettering style of street sign names, which had no compliance deadline—and became controversial, as the press reports made it appear that the federal government was requiring communities to replace street signs just to change their lettering style. This issue has come to the attention of Congress. In 2011 the DOT proposed to amend the target compliance date for the retroreflectivity standard (and several other MUTCD standards) to alleviate possible financial burdens the deadlines may create for highway agencies. Agencies will still be required to comply with the retroreflectivity standard. This report answers a number of questions that are frequently asked about this issue.

Date of Report: September 2
2, 2011
Number of Pages:
Order Number: R
Price: $19.95

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