Lane stripes peeling away on metro Atlanta interstates worry drivers

The reflective lane striping along several heavily traveled metro Atlanta interstates is peeling up, and in some cases blowing off the road, causing alarm among commuters.

In recent weeks, drivers have reported seeing peeled-up striping in several places — on I-285 near I-20; on I-20 near Covington; on Ga. 400 South above the Perimeter; and on I-85 South just south of I-285. It’s unclear how pervasive the problem is, or even what’s causing it, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Drivers have seen the tape wadded up on the shoulder, or still affixed to the road but stretched into a wavy-looking pattern rather than a straight line.

“Was the guy drunk when he was putting this stuff down?” said Matt Holt, a Cumming resident who drives all over the state for his sales job. “It looks terrible. It’s all over (Ga.) 400, and I noticed it on I-85 South this morning on the south side of town.”

Dyan Lorenz, of McDonough, said she is concerned about driving on I-75 and at the Hudson Bridge Road exit. Stripes on the entrance and exit ramps and over the bridge are either missing or wavy-looking, she said.

“I’m 56. And I know the older you get, the more difficult it is to see at night,” Lorenz said. “Those lines reflecting the headlights really help.”

So is it a safety concern for the state?

Not really. Natalie Dale, a spokeswoman for GDOT, said it’s important to note that the peeling problem is only with the solid white or yellow lines along the edge of the highway, not the dash lines between lanes. The edge of the highway is supplemented with rumble strips that cause noise and vibration when a car passes over them to warn motorists they are veering off course.

Also, Dale said the areas where the peeling has occurred are “isolated,” representing “a very small portion of the GDOT system.”

The contractor has been picking up debris, and Dale said GDOT has received no reports of claims of damage caused by the tape. A contractor began on Monday applying reflective paint in some areas of I-285 where the tape came off.

The lines are marked with a kind of fancy pressure-sensitive adhesive tape, called Stamark pavement marking tape, manufactured by 3M. Fanna Haile-Selassie, a spokeswoman for 3M, said that the tape has been on the market for 20 years and it is used in nearly every state in the U.S. for highway striping.

“We are not aware of any manufacturing or product issues, and we are working closely with the Georgia Department of Transportation to investigate the matter,” Haile-Selassie said.

GDOT could not immediately provide details about how long ago the striping tape had been installed in the areas where it is now peeling.

In coming weeks, GDOT will be meeting with representatives from 3M and the contractors who installed the tape to figure out what went wrong and what can be done to fix it. Work crews will have to wait until the weather conditions are right, or else risk the same result.

“It is a pretty delicate product that has to be installed within a certain temperature range and moisture range, and it has to be done where the road is prepped for it,” Dale said.

The product is under a six-year warranty warranty and can be replaced at no extra cost to taxpayers, Dale said.

Jim Mann, a vice president at Pittman Construction Company, said that a subcontractor installed the striping along I-285. Pittman Construction works with three or four subcontractors for lane striping. Mann said he wasn’t sure which subcontractor had done the work.

He said an inspector is on the job site whenever new striping is laid down to make sure work is performed correctly.

“It’s hard to imagine it’s an installation problem, but I’m not saying it couldn’t be,” Mann said.

Mann said that the company would do whatever is needed to correct the issue.

This type of striping tape should never be applied to wet pavement, on top of old lane markings, or over pavement that is not thoroughly clean, said Troy Carroll, who has worked for two decades in the transportation industry and sells pavement marking materials for the manufacturing company Ennis-Flint.

“The manufacturer of the tape follows strict quality control guidelines, and sometimes problems arise, but most of the time the issue is in the application process,” Carroll said. “Weather plays a big role in the success of the installation.”

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