Retroreflectivity Laws & Mandates

Department of Transportation

  • Federal Highway Administration
    23 CFR Part 655
    (FHWA Docket No. FHWA-2010-0159)
    RIN 2125-AF43
    National Standards for Traffic Control Devices; the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and
    Highways; Revision
    Agency: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Department of Transportation (DOT)
    Action: Final Rule

Summary: The MUTCD is incorporated in regulations, approved by the FHWA and recognized as the national standard for traffic control devices used on all streets, highways, bikeways and private roads open to public travel. The purpose of this final rule is to revise certain information relating to target compliance dates for traffic control devices.

Effective Date: This final Ruling is effective June 13, 2014. The incorporation by reference of the publication listed in this regulation is approved by the Director of the Office of the Federal Register as of June 13, 2014

June 13, 2014

Implementation by June 13 2014, agencies shall establish and implement a traffic sign management and assessment program that is designed to maintain Regulatory and Warning sign Retroreflectivity at or above the established minimum levels. This compliance date does not require replacement by a particular date, rather it requires agencies to implement an assessment or management method for maintaining sign Retroreflectivity, in accordance with Section 406 of the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1993 Public law 102-388; Oct 6, 1992.

The FHWA reiterates that the language in Sec 2A.08 still requires agencies to establish a method for all types of signs, but understands that limiting the compliance date to regulatory and warning signs could lead some agencies to mistakenly think that guide signs would never be required to be included in the agencies assessment and management program, and how the agencies will interpret the systematic upgrading (applicable to MUTCD requirements that have no specific compliance date). The FHWA adds a footnote to table I-2 to clarify that other types of signs are to be adding guide signs to the agency’s management or assessment method as resources allow. The FHWA believes that adding this footnote in the final rule, rather than being silent on the issue, will provide clarity.

The Elimination of Compliance Dates

The elimination of a compliance date for a given Standard contained in the MUTCD does not eliminate the regulatory requirement to comply with that Standard. The Standard itself remains in the MUTCD and applies to any new installations, but the compliance date for replacing noncompliant devices that exist in the field is eliminated. To further clarify, any new installation of an existing noncompliant device (such as moving a noncompliant device to another location) would also have to comply with the Standard upon installation.

Even without a specific date, agencies will need to replace any sign they identify as not meeting the established minimum Retroreflectivity levels. Their schedules replacing the signs, however, would be based on resources and relative priorities, rather than specific compliance dates.The agency or Jurisdiction will need to be prepared to defend its replacement scheduling decisions if liability issues arise.

2007, December

It is important to remember that the rulings from previous laws are currently in effect and are not open for discussion or change, namely the one listed below.

On December 21, 2007 at a Congressional Directive in Sec 406 of the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1993 Public law 102-388; Oct 6, 1992. The Secretary of Transportation was directed to revise the MUTCD to include a minimum level of Retroreflectivity that must be maintained for traffic signs and pavement markings. This rule applies to most regulatory, warning, street name and both ground mounted and overhead guide signs. This rule effects permanent, temporary and portable signage.

The MUTCD 2003 addition speaks to Retroreflectivity and sign visibility in the following sections:

  • Section 1A.03 Design of Traffic Control Devices
  • Section 1A.04 Placement and Operation of Traffic Control Devices
  • Section 1A.05 Maintenance of Traffic Control Devices
  • Section 2A.06 Design of Signs
  • Section 2A.08 Retroreflectivity and Illumination
  • Section 2A.09 Maintaining Minimum Retroreflectivity Section 2A.22 Maintenance