Road Management & Engineering Journal
Road Management & Engineering Journal
February 2, 1998
TranSafety, Inc.
(U.S. and Canada)
(360) 683-6276
Fax: (360) 335-6402

New Tools for Sign Management: Utah T2 Center Partners with Smart Map Systems LLC to Develop a User-Friendly Sign Management Program

(This information is reproduced with permission from "On the Move: The Direction in Transportation Progress," the newsletter of the Utah Technology Transfer Center. The article appeared in the Fall (September) 1997 edition.)

Safe and efficient traffic operations on our roads and streets depends principally on well designed and maintained signs. In addition, the potential liability associated with traffic signs is an increasing concern for local, state, and Federal Highway agencies. As a result, the Utah T2 Center continually searches for better tools to manage and maintain traffic signs, along with other infrastructure elements.

After reviewing existing sign management systems, the Utah T2 Center concluded that a user-friendly and highly visual system for collecting, managing, analyzing, and maintaining signs was not currently available. To provide a system that would satisfy the requirements of cities, counties, and state transportation agencies, the Utah T2 Center partnered with Smart Map Systems LLC to develop a new sign management program.

A pilot project was initiated with the Utah Department of Transportation to develop a user-friendly system that would serve all UDOT units that deal with signs and related traffic operations. The project focuses on four main areas:

  1. sign inventory and data collection
  2. sign condition and history analysis
  3. geographic visualization and analysis of sign conditions, placement, and maintenance
  4. sign data management for purposes of maintenance, replacement and budgeting

The Utah T2 Center is also working with Craig Timothy, Salt Lake City Senior Traffic Technician, on a pilot project to implement the program for Salt Lake City.

Sign Inventory Data Collection. The key to successful sign management is to have a complete sign inventory first. For purposes of sound management and full analysis, the sign inventory must contain detailed information as prescribed in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) along with other details such as:

In order to gather this information accurately and efficiently, the latest data collection technologies were used. Through the excellent support of Monson Engineering, Trimble Inc., Laser Technologies Inc., Flint Trading, and Ashtech Inc. such data collection devices as GPS units, data loggers, laser range-finders, retro-reflectometers, digital cameras, and bar coding systems were evaluated and used to collect over 40 distinct data elements associated with each sign installation. In a short, three-month period of time this equipment has been field tested, configured, and used to collect information on over 10,000 signs in UDOT Region One.

Sign Condition and History Analysis. For effective sign management, provision must be made for periodic assessment of sign conditions so that both emergency repairs and replacement can be made along with preventive maintenance. These provision[s] must be easy for field persons to perform, as well as provide current information to higher levels of management; including risk management. The Utah T2 Center is currently working with the Federal Highway Administration to gather information on the deterioration and aging of sign materials. This information will be used to develop life expectancy curves for individual signs. The function will allow managers to forecast the future sign conditions based upon location and retroreflectivity of each sign. This information can be further used to schedule preventive maintenance, evaluate and select sign materials, and buget resources.

Geographic Visualization and Analysis of Signs. Perhaps the most useful part of the program is the integration with a geographic information system (GIS). The program is integrated into the Smart Map Systems product SmartMap View as an application plug-in program. This approach allows field persons and managers to view their signs:

Sign Data Management. The sign data management part of the program consists of functions to perform the following:

"The management functions of this program exceed anything we have found on the market and ha[ve] even surpassed many of our expectations[,]" stated Gordon Peterson, UDOT Implementation Engineer. He further stated, "[T]he detail of the inventory, combined with the management tools will increase safety and reduce liability."

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