Pavement Markings

Numerous citizens have noted the difficulty in seeing the markings on area roads especially at night and when it rains. Here is a report issued from City staff on this issue:

Background/Current Practices

Pavement markings are installed on roads to help delineate lanes, channelization, right-of-way controls, pedestrian crossways, and other scenarios. Markings are typically comprised of a material called thermoplastic. This material is very durable and has imbedded reflective beads to increase visibility. Thermoplastic markings typically last 7-10 years in high wear areas but can last much longer if subjected to minimal traffic. Special reflective paint can also be used, however as its life span is only a year, this paint is rarely used for permanent installations. Pavement markings are generally installed on higher volume roads and are less frequently provided on residential streets. In Raleigh’s corporate limits, roads generally fall into one of three categories: private roads, City-maintained roads, and roads falling on the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) State Highway System. Pavement markings are primarily present on NCDOT State Highway System roads, since these are typically multi-lane facilities and act as thoroughfares.

Pavement marking maintenance has historically been an interim measure to sustain the markings and delineations between roadway resurfacing projects. This practice has become problematic as NCDOT (like the City) is dealing with funding constraints which have decreased the frequency at which roads are resurfaced. The State does have operational funds for pavement markings; however, the amount is not substantial compared to the growing need of long-term maintenance. The City has a municipal agreement with NCDOT which allows City forces to assist with maintenance on NCDOT roads; this agreement has a pre- set reimbursement rate. Each year some City funding is allocated for contractual services for pavement marking maintenance work. This contracting work is supplemented with in-house forces. Over the past three fiscal years, equipment has been procured to help increase the output of pavement markings installed by in-house forces. Some of this equipment includes special vats that keeps heated thermoplastic ready for installation and a motorized installation machine that is more conducive to the replacement of longer sections of double yellow or skip lines.

Challenges and Initiatives

At this time, NCDOT does not appear to have plans to increase their rate of resurfacing roads. This situation – combined with the added growth of new infrastructure (new roads) – will result in the continued deterioration of pavement markings. If the quality of pavement markings are to be kept at the same level or improve, the City may need to play a larger role. This can be accomplished in two ways: increase the amount of pavement marking work contracted to others or increase the pavement marking output of in-house staff. Unfortunately increasing the amount of contracted work does not seem to be an option. Over the past four years, pavement marking contracts have required numerous advertisements to get a response from even a single bidder. The abundance of work in the area has resulted in a shortage of pavement marking contractors and/or has made contractors more selective about the profitability of the work they pursue.

The second option is for city crews to perform more maintenance work. In addition to the procurement of additional equipment, as noted, staff has evaluated options to obtain a thermoplastic installation truck. These trucks are rather expensive (approximately $700,000); however, they are set up to install a large amount of pavement markings relatively quickly and efficiently. Many larger cities in North Carolina (including Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham and Winston Salem) have these types of trucks. The truck would require two new additional staff members and a crash attenuator (needed for higher speed roads) in order to fully realize any new increased capacity for these installations. Constricted budgets have prevented staff from procuring this equipment to date.

NCDOT is ultimately responsible for maintenance of the pavement markings on their roads, which comprise most of the thoroughfares in Raleigh. As maintenance levels have decreased, motorists continue to experience fading pavement markings. Staff is aware of this issue and have taken some steps to better prepare internal staff with equipment to help increase our pavement marking output. Staff will also discuss this situation with NCDOT to investigate other potential options to help improve conditions for our roadway users.