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Resources from the Transportation Library
Sign Retroreflectivity

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California public agencies: Order a FREE copy of the Sign Retroreflectivity Guidebook
  • Sign Retroreflectivity Guidebook
    FHWA, September 2009, FHWA-CFL/TD-09-005
    This guidebook provides an overview of retroreflectivity and outlines the different levels of responsibility for maintaining signs under new FHWA requirements. It includes the Sign Retroreflectivity Toolkit on CD-ROM which describes several maintenance methods and includes an interactive budget estimation tool. Sample inspection sheets and forms are also included with the guidebook.

Federal Highway Administration Resources

This newsletter also includes a brief overview of FHWA's new standards regarding minimum required levels of sign retroreflectivity, and information about our sign retroreflectometer loan program for California local agencies.
  • Nighttime Visibility — FHWA Safety Program
    This FHWA website contains resources and information about nighttime visibility and the new minimum requirements for meeting sign standards. Includes links to training courses and technical guidance.
  • Methods for Maintaining Traffic Sign Retroreflectivity [PDF, 684 k]
    P.J. Carlson and M.S. Lupes, FHWA, November 2007
    Details FHWA-recommended methods for maintaining, assessing, and managing traffic sign retroreflectivity. These methods function to help agencies maintain their signs at or above the required minimum standard for retroreflectivity. The assessment methods focus on visual nighttime and measured sign inspections. The management methods explain the difference in cost and effort between expected sign life cycle and blanket sign replacement.
  • Minimum Retroreflectivity Levels for Blue and Brown Traffic Signs
    A.J. Holick and P.J. Carlson, FHWA,
    April 2008
    The 2003 MUTCD update provided guidelines for the minimum required retroreflectivity for most traffic signs, but did not address information signs (blue background with white text) or cultural resource signs (brown background with white text). This report recommends requirements for these types of signs, addressing topics such as glare from headlamps and the presence of fixed roadway lighting.

Articles and Reports

About the Institute of Transportation Studies Library

Employees of California public sector transportation agencies at the local, state, and regional levels, including federal agencies located in California, are eligible to request anything in the transportation library’s catalog for free. The library will even provide up to 50 pages of photocopies of articles from journals, trade magazines, or conference reports, or will scan and e-mail the requested material.

We encourage public agency employees to contact the library for reference services and loans. Specialized services are provided free to public agency employees with funding from the California Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP). For details, see or contact:

Kendra Levine
Reference and Outreach Librarian
Transportation Library
Institute of Transportation Studies
University of California, Berkeley
412 McLaughlin Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-1720
ph. 510.642.3604
fax 510.642.9180

All requests must include your name, job title, agency name, mailing address, and, if requesting material, the title and call number.

  • A Control Sign Facility Design to Meet the New FHWA Minimum Sign Retroreflectivity Standards
    E.A. Harris, W. Rasdorf, J.E. Hummer, Public Works Management & Policy, v. 14, n. 2, 2009, pp. 174-194
    Discusses the lack of information about long term wear for ASTM Type III and IX road signs, and looks at what sort of facility could test and determine these wear patterns. It also provides a template for local agencies to maintain compliance, and recommends regional testing facilities to address the many climates in the U.S.
  • Analysis of Traffic Sign Asset Management Scenarios
    E.A. Harris, et al., Transportation Research Record, n. 1993, 2007, pp. 9-15
    Tests and analyzes 30 different sign asset management scenarios, taking into account the annual maintenance costs for each scenario and the percentage of signs non-compliant with the new minimum requirements.
  • Countdown to Compliance: Meeting Retroreflectivity Requirements
    D. Kniffin, Public Works, v. 140, n. 4, April 2009, pp. 28-32
    Provides a number of assessment methods for completing a sign inventory, describing how much time each method takes and possible costs. It is important to set up a feasible timetable for both the inspection and any maintenance or replacement of signs so that the project is manageable and could potentially save money. The more time agencies allow to document and implement a plan for meeting the minimum requirements, the less costly implementation should be.
  • Developing Updated Minimum In-Service Retroreflectivity Levels for Traffic Signs
    P.J. Carlson, et al., Transportation Research Record, n. 1843, 2003, pp. 133-143
    Provides background information on retroreflectivity standards and an overview of the development of the new minimum requirements. Also gives a description of workshops on the new standards and possible research topics to consider.
  • New MUTCD Minimum Sign Retroreflectivity Requirements
    P.J. Carlson and G. Schertz, ITE Journal, v.78, n.4, April 2008, pp. 36-37
    Provides an overview of the new requirements and ways agencies can comply, noting that it is important for agencies to adopt policies and methods for compliance, even if individual signs do not meet the requirements. It also recommends that agencies examine the life cycle costs of different types of sheeting, warning that lower grades might degrade faster.

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