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Guidelines for Handling Pedestrians in Temporary Traffic Control Areas

How to accommodate pedestrians and persons with disabilities in temporary traffic control situations to ensure the safe and effective movement.

Download the full document "Guidelines for Handling Pedestrians in Temporary Traffic Control Areas" (pdf 1.6 mb)

Texas Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration

photo of detour signs and markers

Detour signs and safety protection for crossing of Cherry Creek Trail in Denver, CO

The report documents the research activities completed during the two years of this research project. The objectives of this research were:

  • To examine how pedestrians with disabilities are being handled in temporary traffic control situations and identify if there are changes needed in this accommodation.
  • To determine the information requirements of pedestrians (especially those with special needs) at temporary traffic control locations and gain input on how best to meet those requirements.
  • To develop recommended guidance documents to provide TxDOT with improved traffic control methods for pedestrians in temporary traffic control locations.


When the normal function of a roadway is suspended, temporary traffic control planning provides for continuity of movement through the affected area. Proper handling of pedestrian movements around active work areas should be a significant consideration, particularly in urban and suburban work zone locations. According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately 14 percent of work zone fatalities are pedestrians (1).

The task of accommodating pedestrians in temporary traffic control situations is challenging since conditions within these areas are constantly changing, and there is no single set of traffic control devices that can satisfy all conditions. Many variables such as type of work, location of work, road type, geometrics, traffic volumes, and pedestrian demand affect the needs at temporary traffic control areas. Additionally, the amount of time that a temporary traffic control plan will affect a pedestrian route may have a key impact on the quantity of devices employed and the level of technology that is practical for rerouting pedestrians.

Additionally, these decisions must incorporate the concerns of accommodating pedestrians with disabilities, such as vision and mobility impairments. The need to provide improved consistency and quality of pedestrian traffic control devices has become more important with the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which was passed to eliminate barriers to employment, transportation, public accommodations, public services, and telecommunications for people with disabilities (2). The ADA requires that pedestrians with physical and/or mental disabilities be accommodated not only in completed facilities, but also during times of construction.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and the Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (TMUTCD) support the need to establish guidelines for the handling of pedestrians in temporary traffic control areas (3,4). The MUTCD outlines three basic items that should be considered in the application of pedestrian accommodation in temporary traffic control zones:

  • Pedestrians should not be led into conflicts with work site vehicles, equipment, and operations.
  • Pedestrians should not be led into conflicts with vehicles moving through or around the work site.
  • Pedestrians should be provided with a reasonably safe, convenient, and accessible path that replicates as nearly as practical the most desirable characteristics of the existing sidewalk or footpath. Where pedestrians who have visual disabilities encounter work sites that require them to cross the roadway to find an accessible route, instructions should be provided using an audible information device. Accessible pedestrian signals with accessible pedestrian detectors might be needed to enable pedestrians with visual disabilities to cross wide or heavily traveled roadways.

However, the MUTCD and TMUTCD have only a few typical applications for pedestrian temporary traffic control treatments, and these seem mainly applicable to urban intersections. Within the TMUTCD, there are two situations that are illustrated in Typical Applications 28 and 29; both of these state that where a sidewalk exists, provisions shall be made for disabled pedestrians (4). However, there is little to no discussion as to what types of devices should be used in order to make these provisions.

Additionally, these typical applications seem focused on urban settings, while pedestrian issues also arise at temporary traffic control zones that are in suburban, small-town, and essentially rural environments. In these instances the engineer responsible for developing the pedestrian traffic control must rely on previous experience and judgment, which can result in a lack of consistency in pedestrian traffic control treatments from region to region.

This report documents the research efforts that addressed these objectives. Specifically, the report contains a summary of the literature review, state-of-the-practice interviews, field evaluations of current practices, development of a guidelines checklist, and summaries of human factors studies conducted with the general public and special needs groups.

Download the full document "Guidelines for Handling Pedestrians in Temporary Traffic Control Areas" (pdf 1.6 mb)

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