By Brad Sant, senior vice president of safety & education, ARTBA

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Sept. 26 repealed a procurement rule that for 103 years prohibited state and local governments from using patented or proprietary products on highway and bridge projects that receive federal funding. The decision should pave the way for the deployment of new technologies to help save lives, minimize congestion, and improve the performance of the nation’s highways.

One year prior to this historic repeal, FHWA announced plans to reexamine the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), a more routine regulatory process to update the technical provisions of the 2009 edition, above, to reflect advances in technologies and operational practices. The agency has not yet issued a notice of proposed rulemaking or provided specific dates for when it intends to open the rule for public comments on the MUTCD, though it is expected to do so before then end of 2019. At that time it will be appropriate to make changes to prohibitions within the document on proprietary and patented products.

Here’s what you can do to get ready:

  • Review the 2009 MUTCD and flag any sections or language that stifles innovation or blocks life-saving technology or techniques from reaching the nation’s roadways.
  • Consult with your firm’s subject matter experts and attorneys and be prepared to file comments to FHWA at the appropriate time.
  • Keep ARTBA posted about any proprietary products issues, regardless of how or where they arise.

ARTBA intends to spotlight the proprietary products issue during FHWA’s comment and rulemaking process. The association also is launching a working group from its eight membership divisions to share information and strategies to integrate proprietary products throughout the states.

If you have questions, please contact me.