Innovative Partnerships Help Inventory Traffic Signs

In recent years, State departments of transportation (DOTs) and local public agencies have faced the challenges of shrinking budgets and reduced staffing to conduct the business of supporting transportation programs. At the same time, universities are taking steps to integrate relevant, real-world experience into their curricula to better prepare undergraduate and graduate students to hit the ground running once they enter the transportation workforce. Many universities have embraced the idea of collaboration between academia and the public sector as a means to benefit both parties during a time of limited resources. Villanova University in Pennsylvania recently put this type of collaboration to the test, forming an ongoing partnership with five nearby municipalities. Starting in 2009, Villanova students interested in transportation engineering conducted several projects, under the advisement of university faculty, designed to address the needs of the five local transportation agencies. The projects included studies regarding traffic impacts, signal coordination, and infrastructure capacity. This article describes one of these projects, which focused on a methodology to develop local inventories of traffic signs. The inventories are a tool that municipalities can use to help them comply with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requirements for minimum levels of sign retroreflectivity, as outlined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD). The objective was to develop a sign inventory system while also integrating traffic operational parameters, such as crash and exposure data, to explore criteria for prioritizing sign inspections when agencies are unable to collect data from the entire population of signs. In general, the process included three major steps: (1) assessing available resources, (2) establishing a tiered ranking system and identifying signs that play a critical role in safety, and (3) measuring retroreflectivity and collecting other data for the sign inventory. The partnership between the university and the local DOTs resulted in an innovative approach to resolving a real transportation need while engaging students in a constructive manner to achieve the solution. Moving forward, the university and the townships are exploring additional opportunities for systematic, long-term collaboration between academia and the public sector.


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  • Accession Number: 01485630
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jul 3 2013 7:16AM