The pass/fail test
The process of measuring retroreflectivity is fairly straightforward. The person working the retroreflectometer places it against the face of the sign, initializes it, and receives a reading. A bar code to identify the sign for future readings is then affixed to the sign.
“In the past, that person would then have to review the data and know the parameters for whether or not a sign passed or failed based on established criteria,” says Healy. “That’s not as simple as it might sound. A stop sign has one set of criteria, a warning sign another, a speed limit sign another, and so on.”
With the merging of the reflectivity readings and the positioning data, very little manual post-processing is required.
The software automatically runs the dataset through a set of Excel functioning statements to determine whether the sign passes or fails. Other information that’s immediately available includes a mapped representation of every sign recorded which, when clicked on, opens to reveal a comprehensive list of attributes including latitude and longitude; X, Y, and Z GPS coordinates; sign type, size, and shape; and bar code number.
The software also uses a combination of Ersi’s ArcGIS and Google Fusion Tables to enable the retroreflectometer operator to post the database to a peer web base and share it with authorized parties.
No budget surprises
The integration gives the highway department a valuable budgeting tool that hadn’t existed previously. Armed with the compiled information, managers have a better handle on how funds should be budgeted and eventually appropriated.
“Using this data, we can ballpark the life expectancy for each sign. So a government agency can be more proactive by anticipating how many signs will have to be replaced that year and budget for it.”
- Larry Trojak is owner and president of Trojak Communications in Ham Lake, Minn. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The path to safer roads
FHWA has extended retroreflectivity-related deadlines at least once since revising the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) in 2009 to lower traffic accidents by improving signs. MUTCD Section 2A.08 requirements apply to all roads open to public travel in the U.S.
Step 1: Assessing the condition of all traffic signs (as opposed to street signs) within a jurisdiction and developing a methodology that will ensure each type meets minimum performance criteria
Initial deadline: January 2012
Revised deadline: June 13, 2014
Step 2: Replacing traffic signs that don’t meet those criteria
Initial deadline: January 2015
Revised deadline: Rescinded
Step 3: Replacing street signs that don’t meet the criteria
Initial deadline: January 2018
Revised deadline: Rescinded
Although there’s no longer a hard-and-fast deadline for replacing underperforming signs, make sure your department can demonstrate it’s trying to do so in as timely a manner as possible. Not having a written and regularly updated maintenance plan and goals could result in legal liability.
It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to show you’re making a good-faith effort.
If your Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) center or state DOT doesn’t have a generic sign inventory program, contact the nearest FHWA division office.
State-by-state map of local LTAP centers
State-by-state map of FHWA division offices