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News Release for June 15, 2010
HIGHWAY PAINT SHORTAGE PROMPTS MAINEDOT TO SHIFT STRIPING SCHEDULES; FEWER MILES MAY BE PAINTED THIS SEASON
Due to a nationwide shortage of highway-striping paints, the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) is proactively shifting this season’s schedules for its road-striping crews. The schedule adjustments will result in reprioritizing striping activities from an “area-based” approach to painting Maine’s Interstate highways first, and unlike most years, performing Interstate work during the day. In addition, even if the shortage eases in the coming months, some striping that is usually performed yearly or bi-annually may not be able to be done during the 2010 season.
The shortage of road-striping paints has affected state and local transportation agencies, as well as construction and road-painting contractors, across the entire U.S. and beyond. National news reports point to the combined effect of (1) gaps in the production chain for certain road-paint components, (2) production problems at a Dow Chemical Plant in Texas, (3) a spike in domestic demand due to improving economic conditions, and (4) surging overseas demand, especially in developing countries.
Each year, the states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont work together to negotiate striping-paint contracts, significantly increasing purchasing power for the three states. MaineDOT and its two fellow states are currently working with suppliers on a weekly basis to address the shortage and devise strategies to optimize use of the available supplies.
In a normal year, MaineDOT road-striping crews repaint all lines and markings on the state’s Interstate highways, as well the centerlines of all 8,400+ miles of state-jurisdiction roads. Edge-line markings on Maine’s non-Interstate highways are generally repainted every other year. The schedule changes will shift the department’s painting crews from the area-based approach, to prioritization of the highest roadway classifications—essentially those with the highest traffic volumes and greatest regional economic importance.
“Our usual practice is to send our crews into an area and paint all of the state roads in that region,” says Bruce Ibarguen, Maine’s State Traffic Engineer. “That way, our crews can work extended shifts, often at night, and maximize efficiencies. Given the drastically lower paint inventories this year, we’re cutting back on work hours now in order to optimize the cost-effectiveness of our program,” continued Ibarguen.
The most visible impact of the shortage will be daytime striping activity on some of the more rural sections of Maine’s Interstate highways. In addition, MaineDOT will prioritize striping the highest-classified roads—first the Interstate system, then other arterial highways, and lastly, the state collector roads, which connect arterials and feed local traffic to them. Depending on how long the shortage continues, MaineDOT may not be able to obtain sufficient supplies to paint as many highway miles as usual this season. Highway striping can usually be conducted into the mid-autumn, but generally, is suspended when daytime pavement temperatures drop below 50°F. Typically, striping crews work most intensively during July and August when pavement conditions are best for paint application and adhesion.
The widespread shortage has affected both yellow and white striping paints. MaineDOT purchases approximately 284,000 gallons per year—about 40% white and 60% yellow. So far this year, the department has received shipments of 90,000 gallons, about 50,000 gallons less than last year at this time. MaineDOT operates 5 primary striping vehicles, each with its own crew and support vehicles.
Municipal public works departments and private contractors are also subject to the shortage of striping paints, and may begin to feel the impacts of the paint shortage as the construction season goes into full swing in the coming weeks.
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