ST. GEORGE — In a state that typically receives a fair share of precipitation, some motorists are drawing attention to the fact that when it rains at night – or following the salting of roads after a snow storm – the striping that marks travel lanes on the roadway seemingly disappears, making drivers clutch their steering wheels in fear that they or one of the vehicles around them may unwittingly drift into another lane and oncoming traffic.
The issue of painted traffic lines disappearing during inclement weather is the subject of an online petition that has garnered over 33,600 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.
“From the moment it starts to precipitate the existing road lines become invisible, making it excessivly (sic) dangerous to travel, even during mild weather,” Utah resident Nick Bodkin said in the petition he posted on Change.org, which asks the state to remark “interstates, highways, and surface roads with higher visibility lines.”
“If reflective or lit road lines prevented even one accident or fatality it is the duty of our states government to make our roads safer,” the petition states.
Originally posted nearly a year ago, recent snow storms across the state have renewed interest in Bodkin’s petition. And in St. George, where snow isn’t as common compared to the rest of the state, rains still render road striping invisible – much to the frustration of area motorists.
Kevin Kitchen, communications manager the Utah Department of Transportation’s Region 4, told St. George News that the paint it uses for striping already is reflective. This is accomplished through tiny glass beads used in the striping paint. Unfortunately the reflectiveness of the beads suffers in the rain.
“We already use glass beads in our striping for retroreflectivity, and the effect can be hampered by water,” Kitchen said. “It can also be hampered obviously by dirt and snow which tend to accumulate during bad weather.”
UDOT is working to overcome the reflectively issue by giving the striping on the roadway a width of 6 inches rather than 4 inches, thus adding more reflective beads to the mix. They are also installing recessed pavement reflectors on the roadway.
Previously, pavement reflectors being set on top of the road surface has led to them being hit and uprooted by snowplows. UDOT has begun to place the reflectors in recessed pockets in order to avoid their being ripped up in the future.
UDOT has placed recessed pavement markers on I-15 starting at milepost 22 going north, Kitchen said.
According to KUTV, UDOT is also currently experimenting with new water-reflective beads on a stretch of Interstate 215 in northern Utah. The experimental beads cost two to three times more than conventional reflective beads.
None of the experimental beads are being used by UDOT in Southern Utah, Kitchen said.
On the local level, both Washington County and its municipalities use paint with reflective beads in it.
Cameron Cutler, public works director for the city of St. George, said the city goes by a standard established by the state in relation to how many reflective beads get added to the paint mix.
However, while the reflectivity of the road striping is up to state standards – and can be regularly checked with the use of a special device – that reflectively still changes and depletes when it gets wet, Cutler said.
In the past the city exceeded the state standards on how many reflective beads were used in the striping paint in an effort to provide better reflectivity. This practice added to the cost of road striping efforts, Cutler said, and has since been discontinued.
However, he added that city officials are paying attention to UDOT’s recessed pavement markers on I-15, and the city could adapt that practice if it proves successful in helping drivers see the road better and avoid crashes during nighttime rains.
For a smaller municipality like Washington City, installing recessed pavement reflectors is cost prohibitive, Washington City Public Works Director Mike Shaw said.
“There really aren’t many other options out there,” Shaw said.
Aside from the striping paint UDOT and other agencies use, some also use thermoplastic striping that also uses reflective beads. St. George currently uses this material to mark stop-bars and cross walks.
Unfortunately, Cutler said the surface of the thermoplastic lines darkens over time as vehicles drive over it and can become hard to see during the day. Conversely, it remains reflective at night yet suffers the same vanishing act as regular road striping when it rains.
Installing and replacing the thermoplastic striping can also prove time consuming and costly, Cutler said.
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