Down East 2013 ©
Every year about the time the forsythia blooms, Russell Knowles, of the Maine Department of Transportation, calls his striping crews back to work to touch up those yellow and white highway lines that guide Mainers and visitors alike through foggy nights, keep them away from muddy shoulders, and give them hints that maybe this is a good spot to pass that pokey Winnebago up ahead.
The state employs four teams of five-person road-striping crews, plus an eleven-person stencil crew, that marks railroad crossings, turn lanes, and similarly complicated asphalt designs. Knowles and his crews take their work seriously — they’re not out there just sloshing some road paint around. And they have to move fast to keep ahead of the traffic. “This year we’re doing Interstate 95 right away before moving on to Route 1,” Knowles explains. “We always try to make sure we’re done up to Ellsworth by Memorial Day, and we want to finish the whole Route 1 coastal area by July 4.”
Some facts and figures:
• Yellow center lines on all numbered highways are repainted every year. White curblines are done every two or three years, depending on traffic volume.
• The specially formulated acrylic latex paint costs $5.22 a gallon. Each year the state lays down 155,000 gallons of yellow, or more than $809,000 worth, and 88,000 gallons ($460,000) of white.
• For every one mile of striping, 16.5 gallons of paint are used.
• Striping machines add seven to eight pounds of glass beads to each gallon of paint to enhance nighttime visibility.
• Lines must be four inches wide and as thick as the edge of a penny.
• Each year the crews put down about 8,500 linear miles of yellow paint and 4,000 miles of white, at an average speed of ten to eleven miles an hour.
Drivers who depend upon those lines are glad every year to be reminded that the colors of spring include yellow and white as well as green.
(Published May 1997)