Sign Reflectivity to Be Studied for $72,000

Thursday, December 6, 2012
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A private consultant, for the price of $72,000, will be hired by City Hall to determine if the 20,000 “regulatory” road signs within city limits are still adequately reflective or if they’ve grown too dull. Sign reflectivity, the councilmembers were told, is especially important given the large number of older drivers on the road. The road signs in question pertain to speed limits, parking, and yielding. Winning the contract was Transmap Corporation, which has been testing road sign reflectivity for 18 years.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

It costs $72,000 to see if signs are still reflectorized? Really? You can't just send a staff worker out for an afternoon or nighttime drive to tell if a sign is still reflectorized? Gawd!! Your tax $$$ at work!

I'll tell you one thing: the street signs along Milpas Street are so faded they're now completely unreadable. The tourists must really like that. How's about taking some of that $72K and replacing the signs that very obviously NEED replacing?

RexOfSB (anonymous profile)
December 6, 2012 at 8:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I love posts like the one above. This guy has never thought about the reflectors on signs in his life, and suddenly he's an expert on what the tests should cost. Genius.

Most likely there are legal requirements for the amount of light each sign should reflect back under different conditions, which probably requires testing each individual sign with specialized equipment.

eightdolphins (anonymous profile)
December 6, 2012 at 9:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This is the reason we're broke - these kind of give aways. $72k for a study on sign refection? Are you kidding me?

There is no way you can justify this kind of cost when we have 1000+ employees on payroll capable of measuring...

What was the genesis of this need? I'd like to know why the city feels it needs to study this? I'd rather they spent the money on getting these old people and non-english reading folks off the road.

iamsomeguyinsb (anonymous profile)
December 6, 2012 at 11:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I can do that for 50k and I don't require jacket and tie.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 6, 2012 at 11:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yeah, I don't get it. How many signs could you replace for $72K? Now all you get is some high-paid consulting firm's report telling you how you should have spent the $72K in the first place.

Does the city really have that kind of money to burn?

Botany (anonymous profile)
December 6, 2012 at 11:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The self-righteous ignorance in this thread is astounding.

There are federal regulations that mandate signs need to have a specific amount of reflectivity. The tests are quite precise.

Hiring a consultant to test the signs (1) saves money by avoiding fines for violating federal regulations, (2) saves money since the city doesn't need to buy the specialized equipment for the tests, and (3) makes an outside firm rather than the city legally responsible in case the tests aren't done properly.

As far as just replacing the signs, street signs cost between $100 and $500 each:

The article says there are 20,000 signs within the city limits. Replacing them all would cost between $200,000 and $1 million. It's better to spend $72,000 to have the signs tested, and then only replace the ones you need to replace.

It only took me a couple of minutes to find all of this on the internet.

eightdolphins (anonymous profile)
December 6, 2012 at 12:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"It only took me a couple of minutes to find all of this on the internet." @eightdolphins


Kingprawn (anonymous profile)
December 6, 2012 at 1:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

eightdolphins is correct.

SB is required to follow DOT requlations for maintenance of sign "retroreflectivity" (reflectivity and color):

Multiple maintenance methods can be used. If measurement is one of them, tables of retroreflectivity (in units of candelas per lux per meter-squared) for different kinds of signs are provided. Special equipment is needed for that.

Transmap has some interesting equipment for "asset management" including vehicles that look like "Google Cars" with various types of cameras and other sensing equipment on their roofs. They can even generate GIS databases which could help reduce maintenance costs in the future:

Whether $72K is a reasonable cost depends on the scope of work, schedule, etc. None of those details were provided in the article.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
December 6, 2012 at 1:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The self-righteous lack of common sense in the previous post is astounding. For $72K, you could likely replace 1/4 of the signs in the entire city. Why would you want to replace all of them?

Replace the older signs and be done with it. It's not like the federal government is going to come out and measure reflectivity in every sign.

There is a much greater hazard of signs being obstructed by vegitation. I have encountered many signs like that. If we want to put money into visibility of street signs, removing the vegitation surrounding them is a much more effective use of money. What good is a very reflective street sign if it's behind a tree?

Botany (anonymous profile)
December 6, 2012 at 1:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@eightdolphins, good work, I didn't see your post b4 posting.

You're at an advantage as you have no knee to jerk :)

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
December 6, 2012 at 1:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Have citizens been complaining about sign reflectivity? Who's idea was this?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 6, 2012 at 1:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

LOL. Botany is flailing.

eightdolphins (anonymous profile)
December 6, 2012 at 1:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

A couple math errors here, using the low side of replacement cost as presented by 'eightdolphins,' (and assuming his online sleuthery holds up):

- - 'eightdolphins' himself stumbles, suggesting " Replacing them all would cost between $200,000 and $1 million."

: : 20,000 signs x $100 each = $2,000,000 (low end estimate)

- - "Botany" thinks "The self-righteous lack of common sense in the previous post is astounding. For $72K, you could likely replace 1/4 of the signs in the entire city."

: : 1/4 of $2,000,000 = $500,000

- - Finally, the City should really take the peripatetic Mr. Ken_Volok up on his low-ball bid to do it all for $50,000.

That's finding, visiting, testing, recording, and reporting the results for 20,000 signs at $2.50 each. If it takes Mr. Volok 6 minutes to visit and test each sign, that's a full year's work (2000 hours, no holidays) for the legwork alone.


binky (anonymous profile)
December 6, 2012 at 3:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@KV ... the maintenance work is required by the Federal Highway Administration and must follow the requirements listed in the DOT manual that I linked in my first post.

Interestingly, it looks like the City is asking Transmap to use what I called their "Google Cars" to create a GIS database of all signs in the city. More details here:

The GIS approach is interesting because not only do you get an electronic map database of where each sign is, you can attach metadata to each sign to help with maintenance. For example, you could include date of installation and an expected lifetime. This would allow a program attached to the database to set alarms when a sign needs replacement. This method is approved in the DOT manual and can reduce recurring maintenance costs ... no need to periodically send out workers to survey the condition of signs, which is another approved, albeit labor-intensive, DOT method.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
December 6, 2012 at 3:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There is no Federal mandate for the majority of these signs... the feds do not mandate street name signs for instance, just roadway signs which we may or may not have that many... how many of our signs are State owned? How many are in the county? How do I know? Look at the street signs in Cito or in many other cities,,, they are not reflective... its not a federal issue.

this price is inline with typical Govt contract fleecing. Do you people realize how bloated our city workforce is? We close schools, libraries and parks but spend willy nilly on things like this...

iamsomeguyinsb (anonymous profile)
December 6, 2012 at 4:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

iamsomeguyinsb = fail

"The City of Santa Barbara owns and maintains approximately 20,000 regulatory signs. Under the new Manual on Uniform Control Devices guidelines, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is mandating that governmental agencies develop and implement a method to maintain minimum sign reflectivity levels and bring signs identified as deficient up to minimum levels. The signs under evaluation include parking, warning, regulatory, information, guide and object marker signs."

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
December 6, 2012 at 4:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

How about the city pay a group of people who need and want to work for a week or so, and WASH all the damn signs. THEN perhaps, if it's still needed to be determined - have the survey done... While I too, think it's absurd we have to pay $72k for it, I can also imagine the flip side of this scenario... Say, when someone driving like an a-hole and/or under the influence crashes and decides to sue the city because "the sign wasn't reflective enough" - well, you do the math - $72k is cheap comparatively speaking.

MotoBella (anonymous profile)
December 7, 2012 at 9:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Rather than worrying about a study on reflectivity, because these problem signs should speak for themselves without needing a scientific study, I would like to see a budget allocation study to standardizing the speed limit signs thru out the city.

First, I do not think there is any safety correlation to justify the small speed change from 30 to 25mph and, and, secondly, it requires huge alertness to a sign change from 30mph to 25 mph in order to avoid a ticket.

If the streets are homogeneous in design and usage, then the limit should be identical for each section. What is it going to be: 25 or 30mph. Either one works for me as long as it is consistent.

djswett (anonymous profile)
December 7, 2012 at 9:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Sorry EastBeach but quoting the very article that you're commenting on doesnt change the fact that street signs are not required under federal mandates... In a city with extreme sign requirements I'd love to know where they came up with the number 20,000? Did they hire a consultant to count these signs as well? Was it the very same consultant that is charging 72k to measure their reflective value?

Why you people continue to support a city that spends so far beyond its means is crazy. You can shout all you want about the necessity of this asinine contract - it doesnt change the fact that we are bloated in our commitments and overspent in every aspect... I guess for those who dont work or have to pay taxes this is fine but for the rest of us... it reeks of incompetence. We could and should fire 50% of the staff in this city - we'd all be better off.

iamsomeguyinsb (anonymous profile)
December 7, 2012 at 10:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If you wanted examples of Big Government versus local common sense, here is yet another perfect example of government regulations gone wild.

Along with no small dose from your Democrat party-friendly California trial lawyers just waiting to sue your city if there is micron discrepancy in sign reflectivity as they go for what ever deep pocket they can find.

Think about all of this the next time Lois Capps, Das Williams and Hannah-Beth Jackson put their names on your ballots. This is what you get. Blame them; not the city for being forced to carry out these regulations they imposed.

Ask for the numbers of hours spent on this task and you may find contracting this for $72,000 is still cheaper than paying an additional bloated $100,000 a year city employee to carry out the same task.

Work fills the time allotted - The Peter Principle.

Oblati (anonymous profile)
December 7, 2012 at 12:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The alternatives in every election have been worse. Blind ideology is not a solution.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 7, 2012 at 12:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Mindless regulations that suck the life out of the state economic vitality are always the worst choice, Ken. You have a long way to go to prove the alternatives this fall were driven by "blind ideology".

You did not agree with their positions, that I can grant you. But none of the alternate choices were slaves to public employee unions like voters chose to retain instead.

So on second thought, we did get "blind ideology" this last go around after all - 100% union shills in the entire lot (Capps, Jackson and Williams).

And that is as bad as it gets, Ken boy. You will see. Keep your own eyes open.

Oblati (anonymous profile)
December 7, 2012 at 5:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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