The National Academies

NCHRP 05-25 [Pending]

Guide to the Contextual Application of Overhead Lighting on Highways

  Project Data
Funds: $650,000
Contract Time: 30 months
Staff Responsibility: Jennifer L. Weeks

Roadway lighting is a common countermeasure used to increase visibility at night or in poor weather conditions, and may offer substantial safety benefits for all road users. With the advent of light emitting diode (LED) and adaptive roadway lighting systems, lighting characteristics can be adjusted as a function of need as well as to control for unintended effects. These systems are believed to provide effective safety performance potentially at a lower cost and energy requirements compared with traditional lighting systems.

Decisions regarding the appropriate level of light to provide a given freeway, highway rest area or interchange, or urban streetscape are dependent upon localized characteristics, climate, and other circumstances. What may seem like the ideal quantity of light to support the safety of vehicular users may be less beneficial or even harmful to vulnerable road users, the environment, or community groups. Furthermore, the qualities of light, such as the color, intensity, uniformity, or degree of glare may also impact safety outcomes for all users. This creates a need to strike an appropriate balance to maximize safety benefits while controlling for and avoiding harmful impacts.
While the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Highway Safety Manual and other literature provide guidelines to support decisions on the appropriate application of light for different contexts, the industry seeks more robust information and analysis tools to assist in decision-making about the appropriate quantity and quality of light for different environments, contexts, and purposes. Considerations of the different uses and effects of lighting in rural, urban, and suburban contexts are desired, as well as lighting targeted to highway facilities such as rest areas and interchanges. The research will not compare or recommend proprietary lighting products or systems for a given application.
The objective of this research is to develop a guide for state departments of transportation (DOTs) seeking direction on the appropriate quantity and quality of overhead light for a given highway. This would include considerations of fixed, adaptable, continuous, or targeted lighting with respect to a given highway or site.
In preparing this guide, the research should identify all potential issues and considerations for evaluation by state DOTs in planning for and installing overhead lighting on highways. The guide shall at a minimum contain the following components: 
1. A literature review on the science and application of overhead highway lighting in consideration of different contexts (e.g., urban, rural, and suburban highways) and other significant considerations such as time of day and weather;
2. A state of practice summary and analysis of the methods, tools, and techniques in use by state DOTs and other agencies for evaluating the effects of alternative lighting plans on a given project;
3. A set of procedures, tools, and techniques for use by state (DOTs) to identify and evaluate the potential benefits and costs of alternative lighting plans for a given project;
4. A process diagram flowchart or decision tree that outlines how and when to analyze and select light plans for a given project; and
5. Case studies that illustrate the decision-making and application of a variety of lighting plans for highway projects located in diverse contexts, including at least one rural and one urban example.
These resources may be compiled into a single comprehensive guide document or provided as separate deliverables. 
The NCHRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objective. Task descriptions are intended to provide a framework for conducting the research within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers’ current thinking on the project, presented in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objective.
Proposers are encouraged to specify and sequence a set of tasks, activities, and products that will be implemented through the proposed research to successfully achieve the project objective. The proposed research plan should be divided into two logical phases with the first phase focused on data gathering and assessment and the second phase focused on production and validation of the guide products for industry use. The plan shall (1) include a kick-off web conference with the NCHRP project panel to review an amplified work plan, the detailed NCHRP approved scope of work for the project, convened within 1 month of the contract’s execution; (2) identify specific tasks, activities, and analyses needed to successfully reach the project objectives; and (3) incorporate ample opportunities for NCHRP panel review and engagement on key tasks and deliverables throughout the study process. The resulting guide should directly inform lighting design and installation decisions for different highway contexts.

The following offers a potential manner of dividing the work with tasks identified as a potential list of sequenced activities to be taken. Proposers shall articulate a research plan that incorporates these elements.
Phase I – Data Collection and Analysis
Task 1. Conduct a comprehensive literature review identifying the lighting-related factors associated with different lighting strategies, technologies, and systems. Effects on safety, human health and the environment, and related issues and factors are to be thoroughly researched and documented.
Task 2. Conduct a state-of-practice analysis identifying agency experience with various lighting types and strategies for highways, and with lighting tradeoffs, including maintenance, operations and environmental factors. Data generation for this task may include activities such as surveys, workshops, interviews, and other activities as determined appropriate by the proposed research team. 
Task 3. Analyze data and information collected in Tasks 1 and 2 for lessons learned and information to be integrated into products of this research.
Task 4. Develop a detailed Phase II work plan with appropriate tasks for further research or additional analysis of data and information collected in Phase I, developing a guide and any auxiliary tools or information to be presented as part of the final products of this research.  
Task 5. Prepare an interim report for presentation to NCHRP and the project panel documenting the literature review, data collected, initial assessments, and conclusions drawn from those data. The research team shall meet with the panel either in person or virtually to discuss the next phase of work.
Phase II - Development and Validation of Guide
Work in Phase II will complete the guide developed to address the needs, issues, and challenges identified in the Phase I data collection and analysis activities. Proposals shall describe in detail a proposed approach to develop and implement the Phase II work plan and assess the effectiveness of the developed guide, tools, and other products proposed for this research.
Task 6. Prepare an outline of the proposed guide and any supplemental products proposed as components of the final products of this research. This outline shall be approved by NCHRP.
Task 7. Validate or pilot test the practical effectiveness of data generated in Phase I of this project and any draft tools or products developed from this information.
Task 8. Prepare the guide and other proposed products as agreed to in the approved Phase II work plan prepared during Phase I.
Anticipated final deliverables will include: (1) a guide with supplemental tools and products as defined in an approved Phase II work plan; (2) a Conduct of Research report focused on the research process, methods, and data collected from the research conducted; and (3) an implementation of research plan or report.

STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP. The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.

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