If you are a local official, you better start reading the new 800-plus page Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (the MUTCD for those who are short on time). This new tangle of federal regulations—written under the Bush Administration—is about to have a major impact on state and local budgets.
Among the new requirements:
- Writing on street signs in 25 mph + zones must be 6 inches tall by January 2012.
- New reflective letters need to be in use by January 2016.
- All new signs can no longer be in ALL CAPS (even when the sign has a very emphatic message).
ABC’s Jonathan Karl reports:
In Milwaukee this will cost the cash-strapped city nearly $2 million—double the city’s entire annual for traffic control.
The public comment period has now passed, but the Federal Highway Administration is expcted to announce today that a new period of public comment will open soon.
Who is in favor of these rules? Why the American Traffic Safety Services Association, of course. No; they aren’t an association of concerned drivers. They represent the companies who make the signs.
This morning the GAO released a report entitled “Recovery Act: States’ and Localities’ Current and Planned Uses of Funds While Facing Fiscal Stresses.” (A two-page summary is available here.)
Here’s a chart of where the money has gone thus far:
Here are the highlights from the recommendations section:
Accountability and Transparency
To leverage Single Audits as an effective oversight tool for Recovery Act programs, the Director of OMB should
- develop requirements for reporting on internal controls during 2009 before significant Recovery Act expenditures occur, as well as for ongoing reporting after the initial report;
- provide more direct focus on Recovery Act programs through the Single Audit to help ensure that smaller programs with high risk have audit coverage in the area of internal controls and compliance;
- evaluate options for providing relief related to audit requirements for low-risk programs to balance new audit responsibilities associated with the Recovery Act; and
- develop mechanisms to help fund the additional Single Audit costs and efforts for auditing Recovery Act programs.
Matter for Congressional Consideration: Congress should consider a mechanism to help fund the additional Single Audit costs and efforts for auditing Recovery Act programs.
Reporting on Impact
The Director of OMB should work with federal agencies to provide recipients with examples of the application of OMB’s guidance on recipient reporting of jobs created and retained. In addition, the Director of OMB should work with agencies to clarify what new or existing program performance measures are needed to assess the impact of Recovery Act funding.
Communications and Guidance
To strengthen the effort to track funds and their uses, the Director of OMB should (1) ensure more direct communication with key state officials, (2) provide a long range time line on issuing federal guidance, (3) clarify what constitutes appropriate quality control and reconciliation by prime recipients, and (4) specify who should best provide formal certification and approval of the data reported. The Secretary of Transportation should develop clear guidance on identifying and giving priority to economically distressed areas that are in accordance with the requirements of the Recovery Act and the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965, as amended, and more consistent procedures for the Federal Highway Administration to use in reviewing and approving states’ criteria.