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2009 MUTCD Requirements for Traffic Sign Reflectivity

Cities, towns and other municipalities often have the best of intentions when starting new construction projects; however, guidance is often needed when deciding on appropriate  road signage.  The 2009 MUTCD, or Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, specifies certain requirements for traffic sign reflectivity in erecting or replacing road signs.

Minimum Reflectivity Levels
The 2009 MUTCD outlines minimum retroreflectivity levels for all roadway signs.  Minimum ratings vary based on the exact technique used to produce the sign.  For example, for beaded sheeting signs, white-on-green retroreflectivity levels must have greater than or equal to 7 units cd/m squared when mounted overhead.  For black-on-yellow or black-on-orange prismatic sheeting signs, retroreflectivity levels must be greater than or equal to 50 cd/lx/m squared for text, fine-symbol signs measuring 48 inches, and for all size ranges of bold symbol signs. 

Assessment Methods
As of January 22, 2008, the MUTCD contains new language for public agencies, officials or their designated contractors to follow in erecting street signs.  These standards are also carried over to 2009 MUTCD requirements.  In general, as long as an accepted assessment method is being used, it does not matter if some individual signs do not meet the standard requirements for retroreflectivity.  According to the new language, one or more of the following assessment methods should be used:
• Visual night-time inspection, using procedures such as calibration or comparison panels
• Measure traffic sign reflectivity with approved retroreflectometers
• Assess the expected sign life of applicable materials in correlation with intended region
• Blanket replacement
• Using “control signs” to measure sign life

Well-trained and knowledgeable professionals should be hired to determine the precise needs of agencies charged with replacing or upgrading local signage.  Strict guidelines are put in place as a result of the 2009 MUTCD revisions, which must be followed to ensure the safety of all road users.