The Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has been awarded a contract from the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), a division of the National Research Council’s Transportation Research Board (TRB), to redefine national roadway lighting guidelines.
The three-year, $800,000 project is designed to improve the operational efficiency of roadway lighting and reduce automobile crashes.
“The LRC will perform crash analyses and lighting studies through site evaluations and computer modeling for a wide range of conditions and roadway classifications,” said John Van Derlofske, Ph.D., head of transportation lighting at the LRC and principal investigator on the project.
“The research will be used to develop tools to help roadway lighting specifiers nationwide determine when and where street lighting should be installed.” According to Mark Rea, Ph.D., director of the LRC and co-principal investigator on the project, the research will ultimately result in more efficient roadway illumination systems designed to increase safety and benefit all roadway users—motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
As part of the project, LRC researchers will produce user-friendly guidelines for roadway lighting and a calculation tool to help determine what type of roadway lighting, if any, is required. The calculation tool is intended to be an algorithm that weights safety, cost, and other impacts of lighting such as light pollution, economic development, and security. The calculation tool will factor in details such as road geometry, traffic characteristics, number of pedestrians, glare, and interactions between headlamps and streetlights.
“The anticipated findings from this research will pay dividends in the end to state and local governments interested in providing roadway lighting,” said Stephen C. Brich, director of operations management for the Virginia Department of Transportation and panel chair for the NCHRP project.
“The new guidelines will have state-of-the-art research findings from around the world to aid in determining when and where to use roadway lighting to increase safety while balancing the expenditure of limited resources.” The LRC has partnered with researchers from the Pennsylvania Transportation Institute at Penn State University Park, who will receive a portion of the funds to assist in performing traffic data analysis for the project. Students enrolled in LRC’s graduate education programs will also participate in the project, assisting in laboratory testing, data analysis, and on-site evaluations. The Transportation Lighting Group at the LRC is committed to exploring lighting and visibility issues associated with transportation.
The group examines roadway visibility by considering vehicle lighting, fixed roadway lighting, and signal and marking devices separately and as an interactive system. More information on the group and its research can be found at http://www.lrc.rpi.edu/programs/transportation/.