January 2012 Marks First Compliance Deadline
Traffic signs have a proven track record of promoting traffic safety. They are one of the best traffic safety investments that a county road agency can make, and are of much value in helping motorists drive in a safe, orderly manner.
Unfortunately, more than 3,000 people were killed in traffic crashes in Texas in 2009, and over 800 of these fatalities were on county/city roads. Proper use of traffic control devices can help reduce these numbers.
As shown in the photo, traffic signs are especially beneficial to drivers at night. Signs are visible at night because they are “retroreflective,” which means that they return light back toward the headlight. Tiny spheres or prisms embedded in sign sheeting allows light from vehicle headlights to be reflected back toward the headlight, and increases sign visibility at night. But, with the passage of time, traffic signs fade and must be periodically replaced.
After more than a decade of discussion and research, on Oct. 16, 2008, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) issued Revision 1 to the 2006 Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices implementing Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requirements for all public roadway agencies to maintain minimum retroreflectivity levels for roadway signs. (Note: the Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (TMUTCD) is recognized as the Texas standard for all traffic control devices installed on any highway, road or street in Texas open to public travel.)
What are the New Requirements?
Texas MUTCD, Section 2A.09, Maintaining Minimum Retroreflectivity states:
“Public agencies or officials having jurisdiction shall use an assessment or management method that is designed to maintain sign retroreflectivity at or above the minimum levels shown in Table 2A-2.1.”
Timeline for Compliance
The Texas MUTCD requires the following compliance dates:
· Jan. 22, 2012, for implementation and continued use of an assessment or management method that is designed to maintain traffic sign retroreflectivity at or above the established minimum levels;
· Jan. 22, 2015, for replacement of regulatory, warning, and ground-mounted guided (except street name) signs that are identified using the assessment or management method as failing to meet the established minimum levels; and
· Jan. 22, 2018, for replacement of street name signs and overhead guide signs that are identified using the assessment or management method as failing to meet the established minimum levels.
GETTING STARTED – What Steps Should a City or County Take to Meet the Sign Reflectivity Requirements?
Step 1: Start preparations now in order to have a method, or plan, in place by Jan. 22, 2012, to maintain minimum sign retroreflectivity levels.
Compliance with the Texas MUTCD is achieved by having and using an assessment or management method to maintain sign retroreflectivity performance. One or more of the following assessment or management methods should be used to maintain sign retroreflectivity:
· Visual Nighttime Inspection. The retroreflectivity of an existing sign is assessed by a trained sign inspector conducting a visual inspection from a moving vehicle during nighttime conditions. Signs that are visually identified by the inspector to have retroreflectivity below the minimum levels should be replaced.
· Measured Sign Retroreflectivity. Sign retroreflectivity is measured using a retroreflectometer. Signs with retroreflectivity below the minimum levels should be replaced.
· Expected Sign Life. When signs are installed, the installation date is labeled or recorded so that the age of the sign is known. The age of the sign is compared to the expected sign life. Signs older than the expected life should be replaced.
· Blanket Replacement. All signs in an area/corridor, or of a given type (regulatory, warning, etc.) should be replaced at specified intervals. This eliminates the need to assess retroreflectivity or track the life of individual signs.
· Control Signs. Replacement of signs in the field is based on the performance of a sample of control signs. The control signs might be a small sample located in a maintenance yard or a sample sign in the field. The control signs are monitored to determine the end of retroreflective life for the associated signs. All field signs represented by the control sample should be replaced before the retroreflectivity levels of the control sample reach the minimum levels.
· Other Methods. Other methods developed based on engineering studies can be used.
In reality, road agencies may want to consider beginning with an assessment method, and then over time possibly evolving into a management method.
For example, a method may involve performing visual nighttime inspections of all signs to determine deficient signs, and then developing a program to replace these deficient signs in an orderly manner – possibly beginning with STOP and Yield signs, then warning signs, then regulatory signs, and then guide signs. When these signs are replaced, a road agency may want to transition into an Expected Sign Life method, or a Blanket Replacement method, etc.
Step 2: Have a method or plan adopted and launch implementation by Jan. 22, 2012.
Step 3: By Jan. 22, 2015, assure that the retroreflectivity requirements are satisfied for all regulatory signs, warning, and ground-mounted guide signs (except street name signs).
The earlier the method is started and deficient signs replaced, the less the impact on the budget. Ensure that a timeline and budget projections are developed to implement the method. Don’t have the attitude that “2015 is a long way off – we have plenty of time.” If a jurisdiction waits to the last minute, funds and manpower may be insufficient to achieve the requirements.
Step 4: By Jan. 22, 2018, assure that the retroreflectivity requirements are satisfied for all street name signs and overhead guide signs.
Contact TEEX at 800-723-3811 for technical assistance. This is provided without charge to county/city road agencies by the Texas Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), funded by TxDOT and the FHWA.
(FHWA website for information on retroreflectivity of traffic control devices)
To access the TxDOT TMUTCD from the Internet:
Go to http://www.dot.state.tx.us/.
Under Topical Resources open TxDOT Library.
Open Traffic Planning and scroll to 2006 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
H – By Greg Brinkmeyer, P. E., TEEX adjunct instructor.