May 31, 2017
By Zach Moen, EI – Project Engineer
Signing and delineation projects can be extremely challenging due to the size and constantly changing standards and specifications that must be met. Clark Engineering has an efficient process that allows us to successfully complete these projects for our clients.
Signing and delineation projects are large and usually involve an entire county and involve countywide replacement of traffic signs and delineators. Counties apply to be a part of these programs through the state of South Dakota. Once selected, the counties can choose a consultant from an approved list from the South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT). Individual townships and cities within the county can then apply to be a part of the project.
The projects are paid for 100 percent with federal safety funds, with no cost borne by the local governments. The state receives money from the federal government with the stipulation that the funds be used to update their Highway Safety Plan. One common misconception about the program is that it ends up costing local government entities a considerable amount of money in the long run because they are responsible for the maintenance of the signs after they are installed. However, counties are already required to have the proper signs on their roads, so through this project they receive signs that are up to current standards at no cost to them. In reality, this program is a huge benefit to local entities like townships to get their signage up to standard.
One of the keys to success in a signing and delineation project is having the right team with the right experience and equipment. The project involves collecting an inventory of current signage while determining where new signage must be placed. To do this, every road in the participating county must be driven using a vehicle equipped with precise distance measuring equipment. All data is input into a database by the field engineer. It is beneficial to have the same person collecting data for the entire project, which requires major time commitment. The data is then sent to a QA/QC engineer to review to ensure all standards are met. After review, the data is used by a drafter to create a map of the township or city showing the location of new signs. The field engineer, reviewers, and drafters must all have solid knowledge of the standards to ensure consistency. Following the field inventory and review, one of the staff members involved with the project conducts meetings with each local entity to go over any questions or concerns regarding placement of the new signs.
Once the data is gathered, mapped, reviewed, and approved, construction can begin. These are large projects, so there could be as long as two years between the initial sign inventory and construction. There can be many changes in this time gap from new bridges, road realignments, and standard changes, which all change the signage indicated in the plans. Our staff can interpret these situations in the field and provide immediate guidance to the contractor to ensure that the project keeps moving forward and is completed on time.
The signing and delineation program is a great opportunity to get updated signing, as well as implement a sign management system. All counties in South Dakota are required to have some sort of sign management system in place. This is new to some, as they do not have extensive sign management software. We work with counties to determine their needs for sign management. We can manipulate our sign inventory data into various different formats to create a custom system for a county. We can collect latitude and longitude coordinates that can be utilized by various Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and other types of sign management programs to store sign data.