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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 63· No. 3 > TFHRC Hosts Collaborative Retroreflective Testing Effort

Nov/Dec 1999
Vol. 63· No. 3

TFHRC Hosts Collaborative Retroreflective Testing Effort

This article was adapted from information provided by the Civil Engineering Research Foundation.

HITEC team members test retroreflectometers at FHWA.

Members of the HITEC team test retroreflectometers at FHWA's Photometric and Visibility Laboratory.

The Photometric and Visibility Laboratory at the Federal Highway Administration's Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Va., served as one of several testing sites for the Highway Innovative Technology Evaluation Center's (HITEC) study on the retroreflectivity of highway pavement markings. HITEC tested six retroreflectometers - instruments that measure the reflective properties of roadway markings - in various lit and darkened conditions at the laboratory.

This study helps meet a congressional mandate that specifies that FHWA must establish minimum retroreflectivity standards for pavement markings. FHWA is working with HITEC on the evaluation to meet this mandate and provide highway agencies with objective information on the performance of these devices. To ensure that all these commercially available retroreflectometers meet the requirements of the state highway agencies, FHWA has contracted HITEC to perform a standard group evaluation of the devices.

The laboratory tests focused on demonstrating the repeatability and reproducibility of the units being evaluated. Of the six units, four were handheld devices and two were mobile models mounted on vans. The retroreflectometers evaluated used 30-meter geometry observation distances, which will be the future standard in the United States. HITEC selected TFHRC's Photometric and Visibility Laboratory because it offered a controlled environment and a large enough chamber to accommodate the mobile unit retroreflectometers. These instruments were also tested under extreme temperatures at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The devices measured the retroreflectivity of three different sets of panels with eight samples in each set. The samples included a black panel, five white panels, and two yellow panels. By measuring the retroreflectivity of the samples, researchers could compare the performance of the devices.

Eighteen representatives from various highway organizations, consulting firms, and academia volunteered their time to oversee the evaluation

An indoor testing room simulates a night-time environment.
Inside the laboratory, the testing room is painted completely black to simulate a night-time environment.

In September 1999, six individual reports will be published - one for each participating technology. A summary report will be published in November 1999.

The six products and their companies presently participating in the evaluation are MX30, Advanced Retro Technology Inc. of Baltimore; LTL 2000, Flint Trading Inc. of Thomasville, NC; FRT01, Mechatronic of Darmstadt, Germany; Mirolux Plus, Mirolux Products Inc. of Clifton, N.J.; Laserlux, Roadware Corporation Inc. of Paris, Ontario; and EcoDyn, Traffic Safety Systems Inc. of Kissimmee, Fla.

FHWA's Photometric and Visibility Laboratory conducts significant research to make driving easier and safer. It is a fully-equipped facility for measuring and experimenting with vision and various light sources, the retroreflectivity of traffic control devices and fluorescent materials, and the proper visibility of signs under diverse driving conditions. The lab supports FHWA, including its field staff; other agencies within the Department of Transportation; state and local governments; and other domestic and foreign organizations.

For more information about HITEC or this product evaluation, contact Michael S. Higgins at mshiggins@cerf.org or call (202) 842-0555.

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