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29 chapter six Research in Progress and Research Needs This chapter describes research in progress and identifies Future maintenance methods could also be documented research needs. Aspects and issues where study participants and evaluated so that other agencies are aware of the thought there was a lack of guidance or information were options. noted and compiled. These areas are summarized here. Monitor the development of retroreflectivity measure- ment technology. The measured retroreflectivity method Explore sheeting material color deterioration by collect- was the least selected method by the survey respondents ing chromaticity measurements. Participants indicated owing to the high cost of a unit and the time required that color appeared to fade more quickly in certain sign to collect data. For this to be a viable option for most materials, orientations to the sun, and in different parts of agencies there needs to be a substantial reduction in the the country. It is possible that color deteriorates sooner cost of a hand-held retroreflectometer or the noncontact than retroreflectivity in certain situations. A presentation mobile units need to gain proficiency. at the 2011 TRB Annual Meeting identified some early Analyze the maintenance benefits and cost savings of work on this issue (27). new digital devices and web-based platforms. It is now Identify the effects of nighttime inspection intervals possible for maintenance technicians to search, upload, on different sign populations. The nighttime inspection and change sign information from a smartphone or tab- intervals in this survey ranged from four inspections per let computer while in the field. It would be beneficial to year to one inspection every five years. It may be help- study agencies that are employing some variation of this ful to discover if there is a nighttime inspection interval technology and conduct a before-and-after cost analysis. that optimizes resources while maintaining a high level Determine the areas and operations where technology of quality. can have the largest impact and try to quantify the sav- Explore the feasibility for creating a national database ings in time, resources, and cost. that would contain important information with regard to Evaluate the supportive techniques for the visual night- traffic signing. Such a database could include sign ser- time inspection method in greater detail. Most sign inspec- vice life information of different sheeting materials from tors acquire expertise from agency training or on-the-job across the county. The service life information could be experience. Some veteran sign inspectors were concerned comprised of past research, agency control signs mea- about the different support techniques and thought they surements, and/or data from LTAP centers. The data- may be superfluous in some cases. It may be beneficial to base could also document tort cases and help agencies further investigate the benefits of the calibration signs and comply with the MUTCD requirements. Important con- comparison panels. For instance, are they most beneficial ceptual questions with creating the national database for junior-level staff and are comparison panels effective would be what information should be included, who during daytime conditions? would maintain and keep the information current, what How does an agency properly evaluate contrast ratio media and platform would be used to distribute the on red/white signs when they are doing the nighttime information, and how to best service the targeted users. visual assessment?