Road striping problems to be fixed on metro Atlanta interstates

The manufacturer of pavement marking tape that has peeled up on interstates around metro Atlanta said it will repair damaged areas at no cost to taxpayers and retrain workers to avoid future occurrences.

At the same time, Georgia Department of Transportation is embarking on an aggressive plan to spruce up pavement markings as part of a stepped-up road maintenance plan for the entire state. The combined efforts address numerous complaints from drivers about peeling highway stripes and painted lines on the roadway that are so worn or ragged, they’re no longer reflective and are hard to see.

“When it’s raining cats and dogs and you’ve got rush hour traffic in the middle of the night, it’s dangerous out there,” said Eldon Park, an 83-year-old northeast Atlanta resident who has complained that the Downtown Connector is particularly bad. “You hope that there’s a car in front of you that you can just stay behind.”

Decatur resident Karen Steanson, 73, said going east on I-285 from Roswell Road is horrible.

“The paint has faded or been so worn away that you can hardly see them at night,” Steanson said. “I have to use my bright lights to see the traces that remain, even though I know that could blind on-coming drivers.”

The worst problems surfaced earlier this year, when numerous drivers reported seeing peeled-up striping in several places — on -285 near I-20; on I-20 near Covington; on Ga. 400 South north of the Perimeter; and on I-85 South just south of I-285. Some of the tape was lying wadded up on the shoulder, while at other locations it was still affixed to the road but stretched into a wavy line.

The manufacturer of the pavement marking tape, 3M, has since tested samples that came loose on I-285. In a March 17 letter to the Georgia Department of Transportation, the company said its Stamark High Performance All Weather Tape was not defective. However, it was incorrectly installed by contractors who secured state bids for the work.

The Stamark product is a kind of fancy pressure-sensitive adhesive tape that has been on the market for 20 years and has been used extensively in Georgia for 15 years.

3M’s testing revealed that the tape that failed to stick had been applied over another pavement marking on top of a textured pavement surface. That, and a large amount of rainfall around the time the tape was applied, are likely responsible for the tape’s failure to adhere to the road, according to the letter.

It’s not clear whether the same issues caused peeling along other interstate segments.

“…Investigations into reported concerns at other sites are still ongoing, and we will communicate findings on them along with the respective corrective actions as soon as possible,” the letter said.

The peeling problem was limited to the solid white and yellow lines along the edge of the highway, not the dash lines between lanes, said GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale. Dale said the areas that were affected were isolated, representing only a very small portion of the state road system.

Going forward, 3M proposed several fixes. The company said it will retrain pavement marking installers to make sure they follow the correct procedures. Also, the company said it would send a representative to supervise all new installations in the months of March and April.

GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry acknowledged other concerns about deteriorating road conditions and fading paint lines from state lawmakers at a Jan. 28 meeting of the state House Transportation Committee. He said the department is moving swiftly to address it. Over the next 18 months, nearly 2,500 miles of roadway will be resurfaced in Georgia.

“We fell behind on road resurfacing,” McMurry told the committee. “Now you will see significant restriping across our state as a safety concern. It is not the paint is bad, it is just flat worn out.”

GDOT’s new maintenance plan will address heavily traveled state routes and interstates around Georgia. They include the Downtown Connector and parts of I-20, I-75, I-85, I-285, and I-575 in metro Atlanta.

Money for the deferred maintenance recently became available because of landmark transportation funding legislation that took effect July 1, 2015. House Bill 170 has already helped the state raise more than $750 million this fiscal year.

As a result, funding for roadway resurfacing has nearly quadrupled, and funding for preventative maintenance (including striping) has nearly doubled this fiscal year.

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