In Equity and Sustainability, NMA E-Newsletter #637, we noted the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) introduction of a proposed federal rule that would constitute the first major revision of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) since 2009. Major is putting it lightly, and lightly is not how we can afford to treat it.

The MUTCD is a dense 784-page document full of technical standards and guidance on topics like Regulatory Signs, Barricades, and Gates, Traffic Control Signal Features, and Control of Traffic Through Traffic Incident Management Areas. Not mesmerizing stuff unless you are a diehard traffic engineer, but critical to establishing the rules that keep our roads as safe as possible.

Last week we issued an email alert to all active members about one very important aspect of the FHWA’s proposed rule: how speed limits are determined. Whether you saw the alert or not, the issue at hand is so critical that it bears repeating the call to action. We have until May 14th — the open period during which the public can comment on the proposed rule — to discourage the FHWA from weakening the speed-limit standard. Specifically, the agency is bowing to pressure from anti-driving factions by recommending that it no longer be mandatory for traffic speed distribution data to be factored into the posted-speed analysis.

The NMA email alert, found here, was issued on April 13th. It called upon members to post comments on the Federal Register site — the link is provided near the bottom of the alert and repeated near the end of this newsletter — opposing the FHWA’s plan to strip away an essential layer of data analysis from the engineering of speed limits.

The urgency is still very much present. It was gratifying that within hours of the NMA alert, dozens of members posted their comments for the record. But that isn’t enough. As one non-member posted after he saw the flurry of opposition activity to the speed limit recommendation, “The most recent comments that have been submitted (minority) have shown support for the usage of the 85% speed in setting speed limits.”

Note the incidental use of “minority.” We must not rest until opposition comments constitute the majority of input. If you haven’t posted yet, take action now.

The NMA will be submitting a detailed set of comments before the May 14th closing date. But without a continuing surge of responses like those above, the FHWA will most likely adopt the changes to the MUTCD. Here is the link to the public comment section of the docket for the FHWA’s proposed rule. Use it to add your comments.

https://www.regulations.gov/document/FHWA-2020-0001-0001/comment?sortBy=postedDate&sortDirection=desc

Note: Look for another NMA email alert in the coming week about the proposed changes for stop sign postings. If the FHWA has its way, the number of stop signs may well increase exponentially in the coming years. Anyone want to bet that the automated enforcement industry is already champing at the bit to expand its stop-sign camera business?

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