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FHWA Issues Revised Proposal for Pavement Marking Retroreflectivity

by Matt Cate, P.E.

A supplemental notice of proposed amendments (SNPA) addressing minimum retroreflectivity levels for pavement markings was published in the Federal Register on January 4, 2017. The SNPA modifies the April 2010 proposal for minimum pavement marking retroreflectivity levels by offering a simplified set of standards. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is currently seeking comments regarding the proposed changes to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

If adopted, the proposed amendments will add new language to the MUTCD that will require transportation agencies to maintain some markings at or above a specified level of retroreflectivity. These rules will be similar to those added to the MUTCD to address traffic sign retroreflectivity in 2008. The new standard will apply only to longitudinal markings (including center lines, edge lines, and lane lines) and only on roadways with a regulatory speed limits of 35 mph or greater.

Where applicable, longitudinal markings should be maintained so that their measured retroreflectivity does not fall below 50 millicandelas per square meter per lux (mcd/m2/lx). Retroreflectivity values should be established using 30-meter geometry (entrance angle of 88.76° observation angle of 1.05°).

A number of guidance, option, and support statements accompany this standard. These statements provide additional information above and beyond the standard (mandatory practice) described above.

The SNPA also proposes that, if adopted, the new pavement marking retroreflectivity standard will have a compliance date which is 4 years from the effective date of the final rule.

For those familiar with methods to maintain traffic sign retroreflectivity, the list of approved management techniques for pavement markings will look familiar. The following procedures are approved for use in the "Methods for Maintaining Pavement Marking Retroreflectivity" report (FHWA-SA-14-017):

Additionally, this FHWA report identifies several retroreflectivity techniques which have not been demonstrated to produce consistent results when attempting to compare in-service markings to a known retroreflectivity standard. As a result, use of these techniques will not place an agency in compliance with the new standards. Examples of techniques in this category include: sun over the shoulder, comparison panels, lane line counting, control markings, windshield markings, and comparison light boxes. Agencies using an unapproved technique are not protected when individual markings or locations fall below the values indicated in applicable standard or guidance statements.

To view the SNPA in its entirety, please visit the Federal Register website at The comment period for this proposed change to the MUTCD will close on May 4, 2017.

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