It takes only one rim-bending, nerve-frying pothole to remind motorists that winter takes a huge toll on Minnesota’s roads. But divots in the pavement are not their only concern at this time of year. The harsh elements have seemingly made white lane markings vanish.
A faded lane marking might not land you in the repair shop like a pothole could, but drivers have noticed that disappearing lines make it difficult to see where to go, leaving them confused and concerned. One asked why Minnesota doesn’t use a brighter color to make them stand out.
“As I drive home each night on I-94 to Minneapolis, the sand, salt and snow make it almost impossible to see the lane markings,” the reader wrote. “Perhaps if they were yellow they’d be easier to see.”
The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices establishes the standards and guidelines for the color of pavement markings, said Tiffany Dagon, a work zone and pavement marking engineer with the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
That’s why white markings are used on the right edge of a highway and to separate traffic traveling in the same direction. Yellow lines are used on the left edge of the road and to separate traffic traveling in opposite directions, such as on two-lane highways.
MnDOT crews will be out freshening up the lines as soon as the weather warms. Metro district crews work statewide and generally begin their work in May in the southern part of the state, where weather warms first, then work their way north.
“They need dry, clean pavement that is 55 degrees and rising to install the markings,” Dagon said.
Metro area highways and freeways might not get attention until July. That’s when temperatures at night are consistently warm enough to put new lines down. Most of that work will be done under the moonlight when traffic volumes are lowest, Dagon said.
Ramsey County crews will be out once the streets are swept and rains have washed away the salt that has accumulated on the roads and keeps paint from sticking, said transportation planner Joe Lux.
A top priority
Road striping is a top priority, as is restoring markings that designate schools, railroad crossings, crosswalks and turn arrows, said county sign shop supervisor Brian Fitzgerald.
The county uses latex on older and lesser-traveled roads. It’s generally put down yearly or every other year. Durable epoxy is applied on heavily traveled roads and all new pavement, and expected to last three to five years, said Paul Moser of the Public Works Department.
In Minneapolis, city streets will get attention, too. The streets that drivers complain about the most will be put at the top of the list, said traffic engineer Tim Drew.
Once those priorities are addressed, crews will tackle roads that were paved and striped late in last year’s construction season. Paint that was applied as the weather chills tends to wear off faster, Drew said.
Then it’s on to downtown streets, followed by south-side and then north-side streets. The city will tackle north-side streets first in 2016 as the department rotates priority between north and south each year, Drew said.
Last year the city’s Public Works Department repainted 240 miles of lane markers throughout the city.