DOT proposes to eliminate deadlines for replacing traffic signs

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The Obama administration announced the elimination of dozens of burdensome regulations on traffic signs which cash-strapped state and local governments expect will save them millions of dollars. The U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing that communities replace traffic signs when they are worn out rather than requiring signs to be replaced by a specific deadline. The proposed changes will eliminate 46 deadlines mandated by federal traffic control regulations.

In January, President Obama called for a governmentwide review of regulations already on the books. The purpose was to identify rules that needed to be changed or removed because they were unnecessary, out-of-date, excessively burdensome or overly costly. “A specific deadline for replacing street signs makes no sense and would have cost communities across America millions of dollars in unnecessary expenses,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The regulations establishing deadlines for street and traffic sign replacement came from the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, a compilation of national standards for all pavement markings, street signs and traffic signals. The Federal Highway Administration, which has published the manual since 1971, updates it periodically to accommodate changing transportation needs and address new safety technologies, traffic control tools and traffic management techniques.

“Local and state transportation agencies are best-equipped to determine when they need to replace signs and other items in the course of their daily work,” says FHWA Administrator Victor Mendez. “We are proposing these changes to give them the flexibility they need to balance their many responsibilities and make the best use of taxpayer dollars.”

The deadlines requiring that certain street name signs be replaced by 2018 to meet minimum retroreflectivity standards and requiring larger lettering on those street name signs are among the series of deadlines eliminated under the proposed amendment. The proposal also would eliminate deadlines for increasing the size of various traffic signs such as “Pass With Care” and “One Way,” as well as warning signs such as “Low Clearance” and “Advance Grade Crossing.” Instead, communities will be able to replace and upgrade these signs when they reach the end of their useful life.

The DOT has retained 12 deadlines for sign upgrades that are critical to public safety. These safety-critical sign upgrades include installing “One Way” signs at intersections with divided highways or one-way streets and requiring “Stop” or “Yield” signs to be added at all railroad crossings that don’t have train-activated automatic gates or flashing lights.

Last November, FHWA published a request for comments in the Federal Register on deadlines and received almost 600 comments from highway agencies, state departments of transportation, other organizations and private citizens. FHWA says it took these comments into consideration as it developed the Notice of Proposed Amendments. FHWA also is soliciting public comments for this proposed rule for the next 60 days; comments should be directed to http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/