Pennsylvania Context

Like many other States, Pennsylvania has a diversity of government agencies, topography, and road ownership that makes systemic safety improvements for horizontal alignment (turns/curves) a challenge. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), there are more than 120,000 miles of roads in Pennsylvania with nearly 80,000 miles owned/maintained by local governments. These local governments include more than 2,500 separate entities, from major cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, to small boroughs like Laurel Mountain (with a population of 100 people and 1.5 miles of roads), to rural townships with mainly State/national forests.

Most of these municipalities do not have engineers to do the studies required for curves, and some may not even be aware of the requirements in State regulations and the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The 2009 edition of the MUTCD updated the horizontal alignment requirements for applying horizontal signing to roads, and the challenge to the Pennsylvania Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) was how to transfer the requirements and the knowledge of curve studies to the people who needed it.

Furthermore, hit-fixed-object crashes as a result of a roadway departure are the most common crash type on local roads in Pennsylvania. Most of these crashes occur on curves. Some common curve issues in Pennsylvania include:

  • Existing signs that never had a study completed.
  • Existing signs that are non-compliant.
  • Old roadway infrastructure.
  • Limited right-of-way that places fixed objects at the road edge.
  • Intersections/driveways located in the curve.

Plan to Achieve Compliance

To transfer the MUTCD requirements and know-how to local municipalities across Pennsylvania, the LTAP developed a three-part plan. The plan includes:

  • Training, with a specific 4-hour class on curves as well as a recorded 1-hour webinar.
  • Outreach, including newsletters and technical bulletins.
  • Technical assistance, with hands-on assistance in the field as well as phone/e-mail support.

Hit-fixed-object crashes as a result of a roadway departure are the most common crash type on local roads in Pennsylvania.

Through an Accelerating Safety Activities Program grant, the FHWA Pennsylvania office purchased 3 dozen ball bank indicators, which are used to conduct curve studies, to hand out to municipalities in Pennsylvania.

LTAP Training

Since the 2009 MUTCD was adopted in Pennsylvania in 2011, the LTAP has held 191 classes on the curve sign requirements and has trained 2,989 people, including engineers, supervisors, roadmasters, and police officers. The curves class includes background information on curve safety, how to study a curve following MUTCD and PennDOT regulations, signing requirements, and examination of other curve safety features (shoulder edge drop-offs, drainage issues, fixed objects, shoulders, etc.). Hands-on training examples with pictures, videos, and local Pennsylvania examples highlight the course. As new information became available, such as the FHWA guide, Low-Cost Treatments for Horizontal Curve Safety 2016, the course was updated.

Since not everyone has the time to attend a 4-hour course, the LTAP produced a shortened, 1-hour webinar version of the course. The webinar was presented several times and is available on the website

LTAP services and materials are free of charge to Pennsylvania municipalities, thanks to PennDOT and FHWA funding.

LTAP Outreach

LTAP produces a quarterly newsletter that is sent to every municipality in Pennsylvania, which includes several articles and technical bulletins on curve safety. The technical bulletins on curve safety focus on how to study a curve, sign spacing, and developing a curve safety program.

LTAP Technical Assistance

LTAP offers technical assistance to municipalities in Pennsylvania. Basic questions can be answered over the phone or via e-mail. Direct technical assistance is also offered in the field. The LTAP staff travels to the site and provides hands-on training to municipalities on curve studies, signing, and safety. While classroom training is effective, when coupled with direct hands-on training in the field, the participants learn better and are better at applying the information. Typically, there are more than 240 phone/e-mail assists and 120 field assists in a year.


While the safety data fluctuates from year to year, the overall trends for local road curve safety in Pennsylvania are improving. The 5-year average of roadway departure/hit-fixed-object crashes on local Pennsylvania roads has declined by about 10 percent, and the fatal crash rate has dropped by 28 percent. Local road safety is also now a priority in Pennsylvania’s SHSP. Lastly, there are many trained roadmasters and local officials who can now conduct curve studies and apply the right signs for the right situation.

For more information contact Patrick Wright, traffic engineer working for the Pennsylvania LTAP, at