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Do Your Signs Measure Up?

by Tyler hauser 1. August 2011 06:22

New sign retroreflectivity requirements by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration are prompting communities to take a closer look at how they maintain their street signs. Agencies must regularly evaluate the nighttime performance of their signs and replace signs that do not meet minimum required retroreflectivity levels.

R.A. Smith National recently assisted the Village of Fox Point, Wis. in completing a retroreflectivity study to determine which signs need to be upgraded, and to develop a sign management program that meets the new requirements of FHWAs MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices).

R.A. Smith National’s GIS project manager Kyle Belott, GISP, has developed a customized, mobile signage inventory data management application specifically for this purpose. ESRI ArcPad software is used to assure full ESRI data compatibility with the Village’s current ESRI GIS system.

In June R.A. Smith National’s Kyle Broadrrick and Jon McAnally travelled throughout the Village — one on a bicycle and one on a Segway — capturing data for approximately 1,700 signs. Following are the steps taken to collect the needed data for each sign:

1. A GIS-enabled data collector is used to record the sign’s location, sign type, facing direction, message and sheeting material.

2. The sign dimensions and ground clearance height are measured and the information is recorded.

3. A weatherproof self-adhesive tag with a unique identification number is applied to the back of each sign.

4. A digital photo is taken of each sign and attached to the inventory data.

After completing this first phase of data collection, the signs are evaluated for acceptable retroreflectance according to the MUTCD standards. R.A. Smith National uses the completed GIS inventory to distinguish between the engineering grade signs made of materials that clearly cannot meet the retroreflectance standards and those that are newer and constructed of materials with greater retroreflectance. A number of additional factors are considered to make these distinctions including type and color of each sign, sign face direction, age of the sign based on installation dates and others.

A second phase of field inventory is conducted for those signs made of retroreflective materials that may be in compliance. This work involves measuring the retroreflectivity of each sign, distinguishing those with greater sun exposure from those that were mounted in shadow and determining their anticipated remaining useful life.

Once the field inventory is completed, R.A. Smith National uses the data to develop a retroreflectivity plan. The program provides guidance in the following areas: recommended sign replacement program necessary to comply with the January 2015 and January 2018 deadlines; scheduling the continued replacement of signs after new MUTCD requirements are initially met; recommendations of signs that are required and those which may be redundant and considered for elimination; estimated replacement cost forecasts on an ongoing annual basis; and life-cycle cost estimates based on various other factors.

Do Your Signs Measure Up?

For more information or assistance developing a signage retroreflectivity program that meets the new MUTCD requirements, please contact Jeff Mazanec, P.E. at (920) 731-8397, ext. 3406.

Compliance Schedule

January 2012 — Agencies must develop a sign maintenance program that addresses new minimum sign retroreflectivity requirements.

January 2015 — Agencies must meet retroreflectivity requirements for all red or white “regulatory” signs, yellow “warning” signs, and green/white “guide” signs.

January 2018 — Agencies must meet new retroreflectivity requirements for overhead guide signs and all street name signs.


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