The in basket: Carol Seig of Silverdale had some trouble recently traveling on the Highway 3 northbound off-ramp to Newberry Hill Road that she felt could have been avoided if the highway striping had been less worn.
In addition to contacting me, she made some calls to the state Department of Transportation, where an employee told her that the state has recently gone to a less toxic kind of striping paint in the interests of the environment, but that it was less durable than the former paint so the stripes don’t last as long.
I hadn’t heard that before, so I asked WSDOT if it was true.
The out basket: Claudia Bingham-Baker of the WSDOT’s Olympic Region replied, “About 14 years ago, WSDOT switched from an oil-based paint to a water-based paint because of changing environmental requirements. I asked our regional paint guy about consequences from that change.
“He noted that the biggest change is a reduced weather window in which to paint the highways. He said the oil-based paint could be applied in damp conditions, whereas water-based paints can be applied only in dry weather.
“In our seven-county region, our paint crews are responsible for painting 3,800 ‘line miles’ (highway miles that need to be painted, including skip-stripes on multi-lane highways). When crews used the moisture-tolerant oil paints, they could restripe the entire region every year. With the reduced work window for water-based paints, they can restripe about 70-80 percent of the region every year.
“He was hesitant to say whether one type of paint lasted longer than another, since several variables can affect the life of a paint stripe, including traffic volumes and weather conditions, both during and after paint applications.
“By the way,” Claudia said, “paint is only one product we use to delineate roadways. Most painted highway stripes are 4 inches wide, but there are areas that require 8-inch stripes (gore points at freeway ramps, stripes to separate HOV lanes from mainline lanes, etc.). At those locations, we use a plastic-based product for the stripes.”