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The new rules offer cities more flexibility in deciding when to replace signs.
(Published May 16, 2012)
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) enacted final rules on May 14 regarding minimum sign retroreflectivity levels. The final rules will save cities money by allowing them to replace signs based on the city’s resources and conditions rather than by a specific date.
The rules require cities to establish an assessment or management method that is designed to maintain sign retroreflectivity at or above minimum levels specified in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Under the old rules, cities were required to have a policy establishing an assessment or management method, or combination thereof, by Jan. 22, 2012.
Under the new rules, cities must have a policy designed to maintain sign retroreflectivity at or above the established minimum levels within two years from the effective date of the revised rules. The effective date is June 13, 2012. Accordingly, cities must have a policy enacted by June 13, 2014.
Under the old rules, cities were required to comply with the minimum retroreflectivity requirements for all regulatory signs (such as stop signs and speed limit signs), yellow “warning” signs and green/white “guide” signs by Jan. 22, 2015. Cities were required to comply with the minimum retroreflectivity requirements for overhead guide signs and all street name signs by Jan. 22, 2018.
Under the new rules, the above 2015 and 2018 compliance dates have been eliminated to provide cities and other governmental units the flexibility to allocate scarce financial resources based on local conditions and the useful service life of its traffic signs. In addition, the new rules removed “guide” signs from needing to meet minimum retroreflective levels.
The elimination of the compliance dates for sign retroreflectivity in the MUTCD does not eliminate the regulatory requirement for cities to comply with the minimum sign retroreflectivity standard. The standard remains in the MUTCD and applies to any new sign installations, but the compliance date for replacing noncompliant signs that exist in the field has been eliminated.
Even without a specific compliance date, cities will still need to replace any sign identified as not meeting the established minimum retroreflectivity levels. A city’s schedule for replacing signs, however, would be based on resources and relative priorities as outlined in your policy, rather than specific compliance dates.
The League will be working with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and other entities to assist cities in complying with the new rules. The League will develop additional resources to help cities adopt a policy to comply with the new rules. In the meantime, cities should make sure that any new or replacement signs meet the minimum retroreflectivity standard. Cities should also continue to think about future budget implications as they replace noncompliant signs.