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Photometric and Visibility Laboratory Assessment Summary Report

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DATE: May 2 – 5, 2005
CHAIRMAN: Wendy Ealding
Scientist Manager
VDOT Materials Division

EXPERT/PEER REVIEW PANEL MEMBERS:

Paul Carlson, PhD., P.E.
Manager, Signs and Markings Program
Texas Transportation Institute
Seth Chalmers, P.E.
Consultant
Chalmers Engineering Service
Ron Gibbons
Lighting Research Scientist
Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
Norbert Johnson
Physicist
3M Company
Barnie Jones, PhD
Research Unit Manager
Oregon DOT

Facilitator:
Barbara T. Harder
Principal
B.T. Harder, Inc

Overview of Photometric and Visibility Laboratory

Carl Andersen PVL Lab Manager 202-493-3366 carl.andersen@fhwa.dot.gov

The Photometric and Visibility Laboratory (PVL) enables researchers to evaluate the photometric and colorimetric properties of singing and making materials, including fluorescent and retroreflective materials. Studies of human-centered systems related to visibility issues are also performed in this laboratory.

DESCRIPTION

The laboratory develops recommendations for the specification of traffic control materials, both in photometric and colorimetric terms. The laboratory also evaluates proposed changes to transport-related lighting and signaling systems, including automobile headlamps (as they affect the visibility of signs and pavement markings) and new technologies in traffic lights and changeable message signs (particularly the impacts of light-emitting diodes on detection and recognition) Validation checks of laboratory and field measurement equipment are conducted by the laboratory to ensure that instruments are accurate, both for in-house work and work conducted by contractors, researchers, and State department of transportation.

Key Strengths and Observations

General Observations:

  • Customers and stakeholders agree that it is necessary to maintain PVL at the current or a higher performance level.
  • Headquarters management support of the Laboratory is weak and decentralized. There is no champion for the PVL at headquarters.
  • Carl Andersen has a very good track record of responding to the technical assistance requests.
  • The priority given to the technical assistance requests competes with the Laboratory manager’s other priorities.
  • Carl Andersen and PVL provide experimentation and technical assistance in support of the MUTCD.
  • Carl Andersen and PVL actively support contract research (National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), State- and university-based).
  • There is insufficient outreach promoting the capabilities of PVL.
  • There is a lack of depth of staffing of PVL relative to vital role of visibility and photometry in the national transportation system.
  • The PVL develops unique testing protocols, which can lead to new testing methodologies, particularly for emerging technologies.
  • The PVL performs unique measurements in response to requests from the State agency or other Federal agencies.

Program Specific Observations:

  • In the view of the panel, the importance of visibility in highway safety and traffic flow is severely underrated by FHWA Management. The cost benefit ratio for visibility related improvements are very high.
  • The roadmap for the visibility program is incomplete.
  • Carl Andersen has sufficient flexibility to set the program priorities based on the needs of the FHWA and his own expert input.

Laboratory Specific Observations:

  • The facilities are not adequate for the mission and significance of the Laboratory.
  • There is no strategic plan for the PVL.
    • The support role of the PVL forces it to be a more of a reactive than a proactive facility.
    • The Lab is more based on the personality of the manager than an institution in its own right.
  • The Laboratory is not accredited and lacks an adequate quality system.
  • Many of the components of the facility are not adequate, including:
    • Temperature and humidity control is nonfunctional.
    • The building is temporary.
    • Some instruments are not state-of-the-art.
      • The optical bench needs to be upgraded.
      • Display capabilities for visual studies are insufficient.
    • The calibration of the instruments is not current or does not have calibration stickers.
    • The calibrations, if being performed, are not clearly documented.
  • Laboratory is under funded and understaffed relative to the importance of visibility issues and their relationship to highway safety. As a result, the Lab is not operating at full potential.
  • The physical separation of the Laboratory technician and the Laboratory manager combined with the lack of availability of the Laboratory manager impedes communication.

Key Recommendations and Status of Current Activities

  1. Panel Recommendation: Develop and document a formal laboratory quality system. It is recommended that TFHRC contract this effort.
    Action to be taken: 1) Draft Task Item under new contract, Statement of Work and Procurement Request. 2) Monitor progress and accept final report.
    Status as of 9/14/05: Will depend on funding support - 1) January ‘2006 2) June ‘2007.
    Status as of 4/05/06: No funding available for contracting effort. Will work with SAIC under laboratory support task (see item 6). June ’07, Target Completion Date.
    Status as of 12/20/06: On track to complete effort by January 2008.

  2. Panel Recommendation: Maintain an adequate inventory of traceable standard reference materials, equipment calibrations, and equipment revitalization.
    Action to be taken: This will be a task item under the new support contract. Recommendation will be on an annual basic.
    Status as of 9/14/05: To begin Dec 2006 and annually thereafter – While existing inventories should be maintained, upgrades and additions to standards and equipment will be conducted under process developed through documentation of PVL quality system.
    Status as of 4/05/06: On-going

  3. Panel Recommendation: Physical upgrades (e.g. heating/cooling) and capital improvements. Improvements should be made internally to develop a permanent, state-of-the-art laboratory, as required to meet the needs of the Visibility Research Roadmap.
    Action to be taken: 1) Included on TFHRC Capital Investment Plan. 2) Conduct facility evaluation. Prioritize renovations and improvements.
    Status as of 9/14/05: 1) Completed Aug ‘05, 2) Will occur as funding permits – Goniophotometer – new rails installed to extent capabilities in Aug ‘05.
    Status as of 4/05/06: Upgrade of software is under way. Have replaced the desktop with laptop. Target Completion Date - Will occur as funding permits.
    Status as of 12/20/06: Began work to shift all instrumentation computer controls to laptop computer. Target Completion Date - Will occur as funding permits.

  4. Panel Recommendation: Investigate use of Transportation Pooled Fund Program and other partnership programs to build the Visibility Research Program and the PVL facilities.
    Action to be taken: 1) Determine concepts for partnership funding. 2) Conduct survey of States to determine interest.
    Status as of 9/14/05: June ‘2006 – Pending agreement on visibility roadmap. Once agreed upon, and then conduct survey of states.
    Status as of 4/05/06: On April 12, 2006 there will be a roadmap review meeting. Outcome of this meeting will impact on this item. Target Completion Date – June ’06.
    Status as of 12/20/06: Pending agreement on visibility roadmap. Once agreed upon then conduct survey of states. Visibility Research items included in BAA for Advanced Research. Target Completion Date – June 2007

  5. Panel Recommendation: The present role of the Manager, PVL & Visibility Research Program should be split into two positions.
    Action to be taken: 1) Consider Office of Safety R&D staffing requirements, and reorganize as appropriate. 2) Determine impact on requirements for contract support personnel.
    Status as of 9/14/05: Completed August ‘05 – Presently recruiting for GSI 3/14 staff position in the HRDS Roadway Team with strong emphasis on visibility.
    Status as of 4/05/06: Abdul Zineddin was hired into a GS 13 staff position in the HRDS Roadway Team with strong emphasis in retroreflectivity. Target Completion Date – Continuing.
    Status as of 12/20/06: Training in laboratory operating procedures (including specific measurement processes) will be included in future performance plans. Target Completion Date - Completed

  6. Panel Recommendation: Provide on-site Laboratory Manager under Support contract. Upgrade the position level of on-site lab manager.
    Action to be taken: 1) Determine appropriate overall lab staff requirements 2) Conduct Contract Market Survey for appropriate staff level 3) Prepare RFP for non-personal support contract.
    Status as of 9/14/05: 1) Completed Aug ‘05, 2) Nov ‘05, 3) Jan ‘06 – New contract will be mentioned in the Procurement Forecast.
    Status as of 4/05/06: Due to funding limitations, the laboratory support contract will not be renewed. Rather, laboratory support will be provided as a task under the broader SAIC technical support contract. Requirements are for one individual at ~40% of staff year. Effective May 1, Jason Kennedy. Current contract expires June 30, 2006. Target Completion Date – Continuing.
    Status as of 12/20/06: Completed Jan 06.

  7. Panel Recommendation: Develop a comprehensive database of driver capabilities, vehicle types, and roadway infrastructure (e.g., signs, markings, and lighting), and roadway design parameters.
    Action to be taken: Draft research concept and RFPs. (Also see recommendation 13).
    Status as of 9/14/05: – This is a long-term project that requires completion of work in FY 2005/2006. (Requires funding support at FHWA HQ level). FY ‘2007, Target Completion Date.
    Status as of 4/05/06: On-going Development.
    Status as of 12/20/06: 1) Integrated into Visibility Research Roadmap 2) Sign position/frequency data will be captured as part of contract to develop performance-based specification for retroreflective sheeting. Target Completion Date – FY 2009

  8. Panel Recommendation: Develop and distribute presentations of relevant visibility concepts and PVL activities.
    Action to be taken: 1) Review files of previous presentations to determine what materials are available. 2) Seek assistance from HRTS for publication and distribution.
    Status as of 9/14/05: 1) C. Andersen to present proposed visibility roadmap to Research Sub-Committee of the IESNA Roadway Lighting Committee Sept. 2005. 2) ARTBA conference Sept. ‘05, C. Andersen to give presentation. Will package presentation materials for further distribution.
    Status as of 4/05/06: 1) C. Andersen presented draft visibility roadmap to Research Sub Committee of the IESNA Roadway Lighting Committee, and made presentation at the ARTBA conference (Sept 2005) 2) C. Andersen to review various presentations and propose packaging of materials for future distribution. Carl will package presentation and questions that come in will be copied to Abdul. Continuing- Target Completion Date.
    Status as of 12/20/06: Narrative summaries of proposed roadmap completed May 2006. Narrative summaries presented at UTC workshop Dec 2006. Target Completion Date - Completed

  9. Panel Recommendation: Develop an archive of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for posting on the PVL web page.
    Action to be taken: 1) Review files of previous Q&A to determine what material is presently available. 2) Seek assistance from HRTS for posting to PVL web page.
    Status as of 9/14/05: Investigating methods of distributions for diverse audiences. (Use of safety knowledge management systems and new FHWA topic based web site). June 2006 and Dec. 2006, Target Completion Date.
    Status as of 4/05/06: June 2007 and Dec 2007, Target Completion Date

  10. Panel Recommendation: Provide training material content as appropriate.
    Action to be taken: Respond to requests.
    Status as of 9/14/05: Actions appropriate.
    Status as of 4/05/06: Carl Andersen will do a presentation for local IES chapter on lighting of pedestrian crosswalk this summer. Also planning a half day class for the states on retoreflectivy 101. Target Date As Appropriate.
    Status as of 12/20/06: Desktop Reference distributed Nov 2006. Target Completion Date – Sept. 07

  11. Panel Recommendation: Develop informational brochures on the activities and capabilities of the PVL for use by the Resource Center and ultimately State and local agencies.
    Action to be taken: 1) Determine appropriate publications and draft content. 2) Design and publish.
    Status as of 9/14/05: – Will be a task item under the new support contract. FY ‘2007, Target Completion Date.
    Status as of 4/05/06: Will discuss with SAIC as part of laboratory support task. FY ’07, Target Completion Date

  12. Panel Recommendation: Develop, approve and publish Visibility Research Program Roadmap.
    Action to be taken: 1) Complete draft of Visibility Research Roadmap. 2) Coordinate review, approval and distribution of roadmap with Office of Safety.
    Status as of 9/14/05: Completed Aug ‘2005 and Dec ‘2005 – Initial draft of roadmap has been forwarded to HQ Aug 05.
    Status as of 4/05/06: 1) Meeting between HAS/HRDS on April 5, 2006. 2) Office of Safety Roadmap meeting on April 12, 2006. May ’06, Target Completion Date.
    Status as of 12/20/06: 1) HSA Roadmap meeting April 12, 2006. 2) Presented roadmap to Jeff Lindley (AA-Safety) Sept 06. 3) Narrative Summaries presented at UTC Workshop in Dec 06. Target Completion Date - Completed

  13. Panel Recommendation: Continue the current research program listed in the FY 2004 – 2005 Performance Plan.
    Action to be taken: 1) Complete RFPs and procurement request packages. 2) Chair Technical Evaluation Teams. 3) Act as COTR for procurements.
    Status as of 9/14/05: 1) Completed June ‘05, 2) N/A, 3) On-going – Pending availability of funds.
    Status as of 4/05/06: On-going – Target Completion Date

  14. Panel Recommendation: Develop a comprehensive model of drive performance that defines the requirements for roadway infrastructure based on real world dynamic visual processes.
    Action to be taken: Draft research concept and RFP. (Has been integrated in section R4 in the visibility roadmap).
    Status as of 9/14/05: – This is a long-term project that requires completion of work in FY ‘2005/’2006. (Requires funding support at FHWA HW level). FY ‘2007, Target Completion Date.
    Status as of 4/05/06: On-going – Target Completion Date
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