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Summer 2008
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City of Fontana, California, Uses GIS-Enabled Asset Management System

Meeting New Street Sign Reflectivity Requirements


  • Street sign location and reflectivity data is cataloged with a GIS-enabled asset management system.
  • An ArcIMS software-powered site lets field crews access the system from mobile computers in real time.
  • ArcGIS Desktop is used to visualize and analyze the collected sign data and generate reports.

In response to a new requirement on minimum standards for sign reflectivity that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) established in December 2007, the City of Fontana, California—appropriately named the "City of Action"—has a plan well under way to meet compliance deadlines that are still years away.

  click to enlarge
Starting with stop signs in late 2007, the city has been gathering data on the reflectivity of regulatory signs and manages that data with a GIS-enabled asset management system.

By January 2012, government agencies must establish and implement a sign assessment or management method to maintain the minimum sign retroreflectivity levels. January 2015 is the compliance date for regulatory, warning, and ground-mounted guide signs.

The new sign reflectivity requirement is meant to make roads safer and reduce roadway fatalities. Though only about one-quarter of travel occurs at night, approximately one-half of traffic fatalities occur during nighttime travel.

To measure reflectivity, agencies can use either of two assessment methods: visual assessment or a portable retroreflectometer. The City of Fontana had previously monitored the reflectivity of signs visually with headlights or flashlights but wanted to adopt a more scientific approach.

Since late 2007, the city has been gathering data on the reflectivity of regulatory signs with a RetroSign retroreflectometer gun enabled with GPS. Starting with stop signs, field crew members are measuring the locations and reflectivity of assets with one click of the gun and managing that data with a GIS-enabled asset management system from GBA Master Series Inc., an Overland Park, Kansas, Esri Business Partner.

"This was an ideal time to begin working with the retroreflectometry device, well in advance of the compliance deadline," notes Joseph Field, GIS administrator for the City of Fontana.

Efficiency in the Field

City of Fontana crew at work.

Using a GPS-enabled retroreflectometer gun allows city field staff, with one click of the trigger, to collect two types of data at once. The gun contains a record for a sign's reflectivity reading and coordinates, and that record number corresponds to the same record number in the asset management database.

"We thought this would be the easiest way to bring our inventory into compliance," says Rogelio Matta, senior administrative analyst of the public works department. "We're also incorporating this into our workflow to improve our inventory management. Our crew is out there measuring reflectivity but also collecting data, such as orientation, material type, and condition of the signs, and replacing signs on the spot when necessary. All of that data is quickly uploaded to our GIS-enabled asset management system."

An ArcIMS software-based site named GIS Browser is used throughout the city, including in the field for this initiative. Public works crew members access the asset management system application in real time on a Panasonic notebook computer.

Via the ArcIMS application and the GBA Master Series asset management system, crew members can remotely reference data related to existing signs, such as a sign's record number and its location and orientation, as well as create a record for a new sign.

This method for data collection has the added benefit of allowing the city to retain institutional knowledge, the information that staff members know but which had not traditionally been documented.

In the field, public works crew members can access the city's GIS browser via a Web site powered by ArcIMS. In this browser, they can view and input data, such as sign orientation and condition.

"Institutional knowledge is one of the big things for us, and how we convey that institutional knowledge is through these databases," says Matta. "We don't want to just know that there is a stop sign there; we want to know what the field crew who is working with it knows about it. GIS allows all of us to see the data. Being able to see, for example, where all of the stop signs are located in the city and their conditions is powerful. It helps us quickly make decisions about asset management and relate information to field crews about the work they need to do."

Back in the office, ArcGIS Desktop is used to visualize and analyze the collected data and generate reports. ArcSDE technology manages the geodatabase. Reports can be accessed via the ArcGIS Desktop application interface or via the asset management system application.

"I encourage other governments to utilize GIS and GPS to capture and maintain data whenever possible, because it cuts down on confusion and also makes for a more efficient operation," Field notes.

More Information

For more information, contact Joseph Field, GIS administrator, Information Technology Department, City of Fontana (e-mail:, or Jim Graham, vice president/chief operating officer, GBA Master Series (e-mail:

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