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DPW Chief: Invest in Better Paint for Road Lines

Darien Public Works Director Robert Steeger wants to more than double the budget for traffic marking services this year to use epoxy paint for double yellow road lines in Darien—which he says will be safer and cost no more in the long run.

A little investment now in better paint for Darien's 24 miles of double yellow line road markings would—in the long run—cost about what the town now pays for latex paint, according to the town public works director.

The change would also result in more reflective, safer, more durable lines, Public Works Director Robert Steeger told the Board of Selectmen at a recent meeting.

Steeger said the latex paint that Darien now uses for yellow lines is applied by a contractor once a year, although "all the literature I've read says that if you're using latex paint, you should be using [that is, painting the streets with] it twice a year. We only use it once a year."

Steeger showed selectmen a pair of pictures comparing a short stretch of expoxy painted roadway in Darien 3 1/2 years ago with another stretch painted with latex six months ago. The epoxy looks significantly less worn in the comparison.

"I would say that epoxy paint is going to last another 3 1/2 years," he said.

But the lines won't just last longer—they'll be safer, Steeger said.

"There's a big quality issue here," he said. "Center line markings are safety markings. They're particularly relevant at night and inclement weather."

Glass beads are suspended in the paint when it is applied to the roadway, he said. They help keep the lines reflective. Epoxy paint retains the glass beads throughout its service life, but latex loses its reflectivity five to seven months after application.

Although epoxy paint costs more to apply—in good part because the roadway needs to be prepared before the painting starts—it lasts so long that in the long run it costs about the same as latex, he said.

For this coming fiscal year, Steeger proposes more than doubling the budget for street marking, from a budgeted $29,476 to $60,619. Then the town may not have to paint at all next year and possibly the year after that. If the paint lasts as long as Steeger thinks it will, the town might not need those lines repainted until Fiscal Year 2019-2020.

Next year, Steeger said, he might propose using epoxy paint on Darien's longer network of roads with white center lines.

Public works departments for the state of Connecticut, along with local departments including Westport, Norwalk, Wilton and Fairfield.

"Frankly," Steeger said, "we're behind the curve on this."

Steve February 12, 2013 at 08:03 PM
I remember seeing those installed on highways (I-91?) as a kid. They don't last in our environment. They seem to work ok down south where they t have little freezing weather.
David Gurliacci February 12, 2013 at 08:16 PM
The $60K figure for (potentially ) six years does not include some preparation work for the paint, which increases the cost, according to Steeger. That higher cost is what makes the change roughly a wash financially. I should have mentioned that in the original article.
David Moyer February 12, 2013 at 11:13 PM
What's the envionmental over/under on latex vs epoxy?
Chris Noe February 13, 2013 at 03:59 AM
Why can't each street get it's own color. Or, paint all the lines blue. Yellow is so... Steeger.
Bill February 13, 2013 at 09:12 PM
The lines are amber, not yellow. They reflect light and are highly visible during the night. Blue road lines would be a very bad at night as it would probably blend in with the LED and xenon headlights. The road paint will also heat and cool from cars and snow, etc.

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