Left: Boulder's ambitious Broadway Street and Bridge Reconstruction Project—which included building a storm sewer under existing utilities—only minimally disrupted traffic. Above: The Boulder Creek Path pedestrian thoroughfare runs under the newly constructed Broadway Bridge. Photos: Boulder, Colo., Public Works Department
The gospel according to the MUTCD

How to use this comprehensive manual to redesign a roadway or intersection.

IDOT's Eric Harm refers to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) as the “Bible of traffic control.” The document is the Federal Highway Administration standard for traffic control devices on U.S. streets and highways. Its 10 sections cover signs, pavement markings, highway traffic signals, and traffic control devices for low-volume roads.

Part 6, Temporary Traffic Control, describes traffic control devices and methods for use during construction. Agencies and contractors refer to this section to write traffic control plans, which are included in the bid documents and implemented by the winning contractor.

The MUTCD contains four types of statements:

  • Standard—required, mandatory, or specifically prohibitive practices regarding a traffic control device.
  • Guidance—recommended, but not mandatory, practices in typical situations; deviations are allowed if engineering judgment deems them appropriate. “You need to have a good reason not to do it that way,” says Ken Wood, traffic operations engineer with FHWA's Resource Center in Olympia Fields, Ill.
  • Option—permissive conditions that carry no requirement or recommendation. Options may contain allowable modifications to a Standard or Guidance. Example: “If work vehicles are on the shoulder, a SHOULDER WORK sign may be used.”
  • Support—informational only.
  • FHWA offers one-day seminars on the MUTCD. The manual is available online at Hard copies are available from the American Traffic Safety Services Association at; or from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials at