The National Academies

NCHRP 03-147 [RFP]

LED Applications on Traffic Control Devices

Posted Date: 3/7/2023

  Project Data
Funds: $500,000
Contract Time: 30 months
(includes 1 month for NCHRP review and approval of each interim report; and 3 months for NCHRP review and for contractor revision of the final report)
Authorization to Begin Work: 8/1/2023 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Christopher T. McKenney
   Phone: 202/334-2218
   Email: cmckenney@nas.edu
RFP Close Date: 4/21/2023
Fiscal Year: 2023

ATTENTION PROPOSERS: A Research Project Statement for NCHRP Project 03-147 was released on November 14, 2022; no award was made. The purpose of this Research Project Statement is to initiate a new competition for this project. This Research Project Statement has been slightly modified from the original statement. Proposers will need to demonstrate the research team’s (1) extensive experience with automotive machine vision systems and (2) extensive knowledge of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Proposers shall present a detailed research plan for Phase I that sufficiently addresses the research objective and include a methodical approach to collecting information. Information collected shall include current automotive machine vision systems. This solicitation is open to all proposers, including any agencies that responded to the earlier Research Project Statement.


Since the introduction of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in traffic control systems, LEDs have been gaining in prominence to enhance attention and conspicuity of signs, create dynamic sign legends, and provide basic traffic control. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has limited LED provisions to guide the LED applications, creating some indecision among public agencies relative to the appropriate application of LEDs in their traffic control applications.

The National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) has submitted LED recommendations to FHWA that maintain basic traffic control concepts, recognize the adaptability of LED technology, and provide guidance for LED use. The development of those MUTCD recommendations identified a number of issues where research was not available to support the recommendations. There continues to be growing use of LED signs without clear understanding of possible safety advantages or impacts to machine vision, road users, and adjacent residents. To guide transportation agencies on basic traffic control concepts that warrant the life cycle of significant asset investments and safety to road users, research is needed to provide clarification on the LED applications in traffic control devices.


The objective of this research is to evaluate various LED sign applications and provide a guide to the effective use of LED applications in traffic control devices for the road user and current generation automotive machine vision systems.

Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.


Task descriptions are intended to provide a framework for conducting the research. The NCHRP is seeking the insights of proposers on how best to achieve the research objective. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time. Proposals must present the proposers' current thinking in sufficient detail to demonstrate their understanding of the issues and the soundness of their approach to meeting the research objective.

PHASE I Planning and Data Collection

Task 1. Conduct a literature review of relevant research and current state of the practice related to LED applications on traffic control devices. The review shall include published and unpublished research conducted through the NCHRP; FHWA; and other national, international, state, and pooled-fund sponsored research as it relates to human factors. The review shall also include identification and description of current generation automotive machine vision systems.

Task 2. Propose a methodical approach (e.g., surveys, targeted interviews, focus groups, and other appropriate methods and/or tools) to collect information from state departments of transportation (DOTs), practitioners, automotive manufacturers, and relevant stakeholders. At a minimum, the proposed approach shall:

  • Collect and summarize information to characterize the current state of the practice as well as future needs as it relates to LED applications in traffic control devices; and
  • Identify the characteristics of current machine vision systems being deployed within North America. 

Note: A Task Report for Task 2 is to be submitted for NCHRP review and approval before Task 3 can begin.

Task 3. Execute the approved Task 2 methodology. Synthesize the results from Task 2 to identify knowledge gaps for (1) evaluating various LED applications and (2) managing LED applications in traffic control devices. These knowledge gaps should be addressed in this research or in the recommended future research as budget permits.

Task 4. Identify existing sections of MUTCD and National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) TS-4 standards that could be impacted by the results of the research findings (see Special Note C). 

Task 5. Propose a research plan to achieve the research objective to be fully developed in Phase II.  At a minimum, the research plan shall address the following main topics and subtasks.

  • Refresh Rate
    • Identify appropriate refresh rates for LED signs in traffic control applications for machine vision consumption factors (e.g., ambient lighting, maintenance costs, contrast ratio, color, weather conditions, and sign sheetings), including traffic signals, beacons, hybrid signs, embedded within static sign LEDs, and LED signs. 

  • LED pitch (spacing)
    • Identify potential uses of LED pitch or spacing to (1) display sign legend; and (2) provide sign recognition and legibility performance that at a minimum meets MUTCD and standard highway signs and markings (SHSM) legends, text, and symbols; and
    • Assess standard changeable message signs (CMS) message elements and their ability to match the standard highway fonts, symbols, and other elements created to improve uniformity.

  • Sign Shape
    • Identify spacing characteristics of LEDs within or near the border needed to identify the standard shapes for the various signs and provide enhanced conspicuity; and
    • Determine how to maintain standard sign shape consistency for day and night recognition.

Task 6. Develop resources from the findings of Task 3 to highlight potential implementation requirements, procedures (including quality assurance (QA)), strategies, and challenges as it relates to LED applications in traffic control devices.

Task 7. Prepare Interim Report No. 1 that documents the work completed in Tasks 1 through 6, and provides an updated and refined work plan for the remainder of the research no later than 6 months after the contract award date.  The updated plan must describe the process and rationale for the work proposed for Phases II and III.

Note: Following a 1-month review of Interim Report No. 1 by the NCHRP, the research team will be required to meet in-person or online with the NCHRP project panel to discuss the interim report. This meeting is expected to be in-person and held in Washington, D.C. Whether in-person or online, NCHRP will host the meeting and be responsible for any panel member costs to attend meeting. Work on Phase II of the project will not begin until authorized by the NCHRP.

PHASE II — Research Plan Development

Task 8. Execute the approved Task 5 research plan according to the approved Interim Report No. 1. 

Task 9. Develop proposed draft language for consideration by the NCUTCD to incorporate the research findings in the next update of the MUTCD (herein called the MUTCD Deliverable). The MUTCD Deliverable should identify potential solutions, which may include physical, electronic, or operational changes to traffic control devices for machine vision that meet the needs of human drivers and automated driving systems. 

Task 10. Prepare Interim Report No. 2 that documents the results of Tasks 8 and 9 and provides an updated work plan for the remainder of the project. This report should include revised examples of materials and resources developed in Task 6 to be incorporated into the contractor’s final research report. The updated plan must describe the work proposed for Phase III.

Note: Following a 1-month review of Interim Report No. 2 by the NCHRP, the research team will be required to meet in-person or online with the NCHRP project panel to discuss the interim report. This meeting is expected to be in-person and held in Washington, D.C. Whether in-person or online, NCHRP will host the meeting and be responsible for any panel member costs to attend meeting. Work on Phase III of the project will not begin until authorized by the NCHRP.

PHASE III — Final Products

Task 11. Revise the MUTCD Deliverable considering the NCHRP’s review comments. Present the MUTCD Deliverable to all relevant NCUTCD Technical Committees and Joint Task Forces and propose any revisions to NCHRP. 

Task 12. Prepare a final deliverable that documents the entire research effort. Final deliverables should include (1) a final research report documenting the entire research effort and findings; (2) the MUTCD Deliverable; (3) prioritized recommendations for future research; (4) presentation material and resources; and (5) technical memorandum on implementation (see Special Note L).

Note: Following receipt of the draft final deliverables, the remaining 3 months shall be for NCHRP review and comment and for research agency preparation of the final deliverables.


A. The research team shall demonstrate (1) extensive experience with automotive machine vision systems and (2) extensive knowledge of the MUTCD.

B. NCHRP wishes to award the contract for NCHRP Project 03-147 for a fixed price of $500,000; this amount will not be subject to any adjustment by reason of the contractor’s cost experience in the performance of the contract. In addition to providing a detailed budget, the proposer should provide a proposed schedule of project milestones, deliverables, and progress payments that is tied to the detailed budget and schedule.

C. The proposer should consider proposed draft language for other relevant standard specifications (ITE, AASHTO, IEEE, NEMA, etc.). 

D. The Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals for the Transportation Research Board’s Cooperative Research Programs were revised in May 2022. Please take note of the new and revised text which is highlighted in yellow. 

E. Proposals must be submitted as a single PDF file with a maximum file size of 10 MB. The PDF must be formatted for standard 8 ½” X 11” paper, and the entire proposal must not exceed 60 pages (according to the page count displayed in the PDF). Proposals that do not meet these requirements will be rejected. For other requirements, refer to chapter V of the instructions.

F. The Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals for the Transportation Research Board’s Cooperative Research Programs have been modified to include a revised policy and instructions for disclosing Investigator Conflict of Interest. For more information, refer to chapter IV of the instructions. A detailed definition and examples can be found in the CRP Conflict of Interest Policy for Contractors. The proposer recommended by the project panel will be required to submit an Investigator Conflict of Interest and Disclosure Form as a prerequisite for contract negotiations. 

G. Proposals will be rejected if any of the proposed research team members work for organizations represented on the project panel. The panel roster for this project can be found at https://www.mytrb.org/OnlineDirectory/Committee/Details/6764. Proposers may not contact panel members directly; this roster is provided solely for the purpose of avoiding potential conflicts of interest. 

H. Proprietary Products - If any proprietary products are to be used or tested in the project, please refer to Item 6 in the Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals.

I. Proposals are evaluated by the NCHRP staff and project panels consisting of individuals collectively knowledgeable in the problem area. The project panel will recommend their first choice proposal considering the following factors: (1) the proposer's demonstrated understanding of the problem; (2) the merit of the proposed research approach and experiment design; (3) the experience, qualifications, and objectivity of the research team in the same or closely related problem area; (4) the plan for ensuring application of results; (5) how the proposer approaches inclusion and diversity in the composition of their team and research approach, including participation by certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises; and, if relevant, (6) the adequacy of the facilities. A recommendation by the project panel is not a guarantee of a contract. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS - the contracting authority for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine) will conduct an internal due diligence review and risk assessment of the panel’s recommended proposal before contract negotiations continue. 

Note: The proposer's approach to inclusion and diversity as well as participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises should be incorporated in Item 11 of the proposal.

 J. Copyrights - All data, written materials, computer software, graphic and photographic images, and other information prepared under the contract and the copyrights therein shall be owned by the National Academy of Sciences. The contractor and subcontractors will be able to publish this material for non-commercial purposes, for internal use, or to further academic research or studies with permission from TRB Cooperative Research Programs. The contractor and subcontractors will not be allowed to sell the project material without prior approval by the National Academy of Sciences. By signing a contract with the National Academy of Sciences, contractors accept legal responsibility for any copyright infringement that may exist in work done for TRB. Contractors are therefore responsible for obtaining all necessary permissions for use of copyrighted material in TRB's Cooperative Research Programs publications. For guidance on TRB's policies on using copyrighted material please consult Section 5.4, "Use of Copyrighted Material," in the Procedural Manual for Contractors.

K. Proposals should include a task-by-task breakdown of labor hours for each staff member as shown in Figure 4 in the Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals. Proposals also should include a breakdown of all costs (e.g., wages, indirect costs, travel, materials, and total) for each task using Figures 5 and 6 in the brochure. Please note that TRB Cooperative Research Program subawards (selected proposers are considered subawards to the National Academy of Sciences, the parent organization of TRB) must comply with 2 CFR 200 – Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. These requirements include a provision that proposers without a "federally" Negotiated Indirect Costs Rate Agreement (NICRA) shall be subject to a maximum allowable indirect rate of 10% of Modified Total Direct Costs. Modified Total Direct Costs include all salaries and wages, applicable fringe benefits, materials and supplies, services, travel, and up to the first $25,000 of each lower tier subaward and subcontract. Modified Total Direct Costs exclude equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, rental costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and the portion of each lower tier subaward and subcontract in excess of $25,000.

L. The required technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” should (a) provide recommendations on how to best put the research findings/products into practice; (b) identify possible institutions that might take leadership in applying the research findings/products; (c) identify issues affecting potential implementation of the findings/products and recommend possible actions to address these issues; and (d) recommend methods of identifying and measuring the impacts associated with implementation of the findings/products. Implementation of these recommendations is not part of the research project and, if warranted, details of these actions will be developed and implemented in future efforts.

The research team will be expected to provide input to an implementation team consisting of panel members, AASHTO committee members, the NCHRP Implementation Coordinator, and others in order to meet the goals of NCHRP Active Implementation: Moving Research into Practice, available at http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/docs/NCHRP_ActiveImplementation.pdf

M. If the team proposes a Principal Investigator who is not an employee of the Prime Contractor, or if the Prime Contractor is proposed to conduct less than 50% of the total effort (by time or budget), then section five should include: (1) a justification of why this approach is appropriate, and (2) a description of how the Prime Contractor will ensure adequate communication and coordination with their Subcontractors throughout the project.

N. All budget information should be suitable for printing on 8½″ x 11″ paper. If a budget page cannot fit on a single 8½″ x 11″ page, it should be split over multiple pages. Proposers must use the Excel templates provided in the Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals for the Transportation Research Board’s Cooperative Research Programs

Proposals must be uploaded via this link: https://www.dropbox.com/request/8E6YkGCxSMxtDQNYBlEP 
Proposals are due not later than 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on 4/21/2023.

This is a firm deadline, and extensions are not granted. In order to be considered for award, the agency's proposal accompanied by the executed, unmodified Liability Statement must be in our offices not later than the deadline shown, or the proposal will be rejected.

Liability Statement

The signature of an authorized representative of the proposing agency is required on the unaltered statement in order for TRB to accept the agency's proposal for consideration. Proposals submitted without this executed and unaltered statement by the proposal deadline will be summarily rejected. An executed, unaltered statement indicates the agency's intent and ability to execute a contract that includes the provisions in the statement.

Here is a fillable PDF version of the Liability Statement. A free copy of the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader is available at https://www.adobe.com.

General Notes

1. According to the provisions of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 21, which relates to nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs, all parties are hereby notified that the contract entered into pursuant to this announcement will be awarded without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability.

2. The essential features required in a proposal for research are detailed in the current brochure entitled "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals". Proposals must be prepared according to this document, and attention is directed specifically to Section V for mandatory requirements. Proposals that do not conform with these requirements will be rejected.

3. The total funds available are made known in the project statement, and line items of the budget are examined to determine the reasonableness of the allocation of funds to the various tasks. If the proposed total cost exceeds the funds available, the proposal is rejected.

4. All proposals become the property of the Transportation Research Board. Final disposition will be made according to the policies thereof, including the right to reject all proposals.

5. Potential proposers should understand that follow-on activities for this project may be carried out through either a contract amendment modifying the scope of work with additional time and funds, or through a new contract (via sole source, full, or restrictive competition).

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