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Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-07-042
Date: April 2007

Maintaining Traffic Sign Retroreflectivity: Impacts on State and Local Agencies

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U.S. Department of Transportation

Federal Highway Administration

Research, Development, and Technology

Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center

6300 Georgetown Pike

McLean, VA 22101-2296

FOREWORD

In 1992, the Congress directed the Secretary of Transportation to revise the Manual on Unifrom Traffic Control Decives to include a standard for minimum levels of retroreflectivity that must be maintained for traffic signs. The FHWA already had an active research program investigating the nighttime visibility of traffic signs, and responded to the congressional mandate by publishing a set of recommendations for minimum maintained sign retroreflectivity levels in October 1993. An analysis of the impacts of the proposed minimum maintained traffic sign retroreflectivity levels was published in April 1998.

The following document updates the 1998 report on the national impact of minimum maintained traffic sign retroreflectivity levels, and addresses concerns expressed in four FHWA-sponsored workshops that were held in 2002. The primary sources of information for this effort are previous studies related to the benefits of improved signage and the impacts of implementing sign system upgrades.

This report will be of interest to State and local agencies with responsibility for traffic signs and people involved in traffic sign maintenance.

Michael F. Trentacoste

Director, Office of Safety

Research and Development

Notice

This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The U.S. Government assumes no liability for the use of the information contained in this document.

The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers' names appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.

Quality Assurance Statement

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides high-quality information to serve Government, industry, and the public in a manner that promotes public understanding. Standards and policies are used to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of its information. FHWA periodically reviews quality issues and adjusts its programs and processes to ensure continuous quality improvement.

 

Technical Report Documentation Page
1. Report No.
FHWA-HRT-07-042
2. Government Accession No. 3. Recipient's Catalog No.
4. Title and Subtitle
Maintaining Traffic Sign Retroreflectivity: Impacts on State and Local Agencies
5. Report Date
April 2007

6. Performing Organization Code
FHWA HRDS-05

7. Author(s)
Kenneth S. Opiela, PE, PhD
Carl K. Andersen
8. Performing Organization Report No.
9. Performing Organization Name and Address
Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101-2296
10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)
11. Contract or Grant No.
12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address
Office of Safety R&D
Federal Highway Administration
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101-2296
13. Type of Report and Period Covered
14. Sponsoring Agency Code
15. Supplementary Notes
16. Abstract

This report analyzes the impacts that might be expected from the adoption of proposed minimum maintained retroreflectivity levels for traffic signs to improve night visibility. The report evaluates the broad spectrum of concerns expressed by State and local agency staff at four workshops held during the summer of 2002. These include administrative, fiscal, implementation, and tort liability concerns.

The report includes a summary of previous studies, including those of several State agencies, to determine the impacts of the proposed new minimum maintained levels for traffic sign retroreflectivity. The various sign cost elements are identified and changes attributable to the new minimum levels of retroreflectivity are isolated. The cost of sign face materials is seen as the major source of increased costs. The cost impact is determined to be a function of the condition of existing signs, State and local agency practices on the use of sign materials, and current procedures for sign management.

The report provides estimates of the National impact of the proposed minimum levels generated by the models previously developed using updated inputs for sign material costs and road mileage. It was assumed that the distribution of non-compliant signs has remained the same. Estimates of the costs for upgrading street name and overhead guide signs were also generated to cover the full spectrum of signs covered by the proposed minimum levels. National sign replacement costs incurred as a result of proposed minimum maintained retroreflectivity levels are estimated to be $37.5 million. Using a 7-year implementation period for regulatory, warning, and guide signs and a 10-year implementation period for street name and overhead guide signs, the annual impacts are estimated to be $4.5 million for years 1 through 7 and $2.1 million for years 8 through 10. The estimates are based upon the added cost of higher performance sign materials, with the majority of sign replacements conducted as part of normal sign maintenance cycles. The labor, equipment, and mileage costs for sign replacement were excluded under the assumption that the proposed implementation period was long enough to allow replacement of non-compliant signs under reasonable maintenance cycles.

The report concludes that there will be increases in the costs to agencies resulting from the need to use more expensive sign face materials to increase retroreflective performance, but there should be no impacts on the costs of other sign elements. Agencies may experience a reduction in service life costs because of the longer service life of the improved sign face materials.

17. Key Words:
retroreflectivity, maintained retroreflectivity, minimum maintained retroreflectivity, impact, impact assessment, impacts analysis, national impact assessment
18. Distribution Statement
No restrictions.
19. Security Classif. (of this report)
Unclassified
20. Security Classif. (of this page)
Unclassified
21. No. of Pages
38
22. Price

SI* (MODERN METRIC) CONVERSION FACTORS


Table of Contents

empty cell
empty cell 1.1 System of Traffic Signs
empty cell 1.2 Night Visibility of Traffic Signs
empty cell 1.3 Purpose of Retroreflectivity
empty cell 1.4 Traffic Sign Degradation
empty cell 1.5 Minimum Maintained Retroreflectivity
empty cell 1.6 Impacts of Proposed Rule
empty cell 1.7 Benefits of Improved Visibility of Traffic Signs
empty cell 1.8 Organization of Report
empty cell 1.9 Background and Assumptions
Chapter 2 Traffic Sign Cost
empty cell 2.1 Elements of Sign Cost
empty cell 2.2 Sign Cost Updates
empty cell 2.3 Sign Life Cycle Costs
empty cell 2.4 Factors influencing Sign Costs
Chapter 3 Sign Management Costs
empty cell 3.1 Sign Management Processes
empty cell 3.2 Sign Management Methods
empty cell 3.3 Sign Management Cost Elements
Chapter 4 Previous Impact Analyses
empty cell 4.1 NCHRP Report 346
empty cell 4.2 FHWA Impact Analysis
empty cell 4.3 State Agency Impacts Analyses
Chapter 5 National Impacts Assessment
empty cell 5.1 Approach to Update 1998 National Impact Assessment
empty cell 5.2 Updated National Impact Assessment
empty cell 5.3 Overall Costs
Chapter 6 Conclusions
Appendix A Proposed Minimum Maintained Levels of Traffic Sign Retroreflectivity
Appendix B Summary of Reported Impacts
empty cell References

List of Tables

Table 1 Summary of Participant Concerns from FHWA Signs Workshops in 2002
Table 2 Comparison of Sign Face Upgrading Costs (additional cost per square foot / percentage change)
Table 3 Example of Life Cycle Costs for Various Materials (Fixed Cost)
Table 4 Example of Life Cycle Costs for Various Materials (Net Present Cost)
Table 5 Comparison of Minimum Levels Used in NCHRP Analyses and Updated Minimum Levels
Table 6 Percentage of Signs Not Meeting Proposed Minimum Retroreflectivity Levels
Table 7 Impact on State Agencies for Improvement of Sign Face Materials for Regulatory, Warning, and Post-Mounted Guide Signs
Table 8 Impact on Local Agencies for Improvement of Sign Face Materials for Regulatory, Warning, and Post-Mounted Guide Signs
Table 9 Estimated Costs for Street Name Sign Improvements
Table 10 Estimated Costs for Overhead Guide Sign Legend Improvements
Table 11 National Impact Assessment to Comply with Minimum Maintained Retroreflectivity Levels for Traffic Signs, by Sign Type and Agency Type
Table 12 Minimum Maintained Retroreflectivity Levels

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