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Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) arrows logo
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If you have an idea for a new traffic control device or a different application of an existing device that will improve road user safety or operation, but the device or application is not compliant with or not included in the MUTCD, it is possible to experiment with the device or its use.

A successful experiment is one where the research results show that the public understands the new device or application, the device or application generally performs as intended, and the device does not cause adverse conditions. The "experimenter" must evaluate conditions both before and after installation of the experimental device and describe the measurements of effectiveness (MOEs) of the safety and operational benefits (e.g., better visibility, reduced congestion).

All requests for experimentation should originate with the State/local highway agency or toll operator responsible for managing the roadway or controlled setting where experiment will take place. That organization forwards the request to the FHWA - with a courtesy copy to the FHWA Division Office. The FHWA must approve the experiment before it begins. Requests may also be forwarded directly to the FHWA Division Office, and the Division Office can submit the request to the FHWA Headquarters Office.

Requests for experimentation approval should be on agency letterhead and should be sent electronically as an attachment (PDF or Word Document) to an e-mail to: MUTCDofficialrequest@dot.gov. [Note: if e-mail is not possible, the letter may be sent via postal mail or delivery service to FHWA at 1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., HOTO-1, Washington, DC 20590.]

As described in Paragraph 11 of Section 1A.10, all requests should include:

  1. A statement of the nature of the problem, including data that justifies the need for a new device or application.
  2. A description of the proposed change, how it was developed, and how it deviates from the current MUTCD.
  3. Any illustration(s) that enhances understanding of the device or its use.
  4. Supporting data that explains how the experimental device was developed, if it has been tried, the adequacy of its performance, and the process by which the device was chosen or applied.
  5. A legally binding statement certifying that the concept of the traffic control device is not protected by a patent or copyright (see MUTCD Section 1A.10 for additional details.)
  6. The proposed time period and location(s) of the experiment.
  7. A detailed research or evaluation plan providing for close monitoring of the experimentation, especially in the early stages of field implementation. The evaluation plan should include before and after studies as well as quantitative date enabling a scientifically sound evaluation of the performance of the device.
  8. An agreement to restore the experimental site to a condition that complies with the provisions of the MUTCD within 3 months following completion of the experiment. The agreement must also provide that the sponsoring agency will terminate the experiment at any time if it determines that the experiment directly or indirectly causes significant safety hazards. If the experiment demonstrates an improvement, the device or application may remain in place until an official rulemaking action occurs.
  9. An agreement to provide semi-annual progress reports for the duration of the experimentation and a copy of the final results to the FHWA's Office of Transportation Operations within three months of the conclusion of the experiment.

Experimentation Process Flow Chart

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