Prioritizing paint: shortages cause creativity to get pavement markings down before winter

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LENNOX, S.D. (KELO) — Road construction season is starting to wrap up in KELOLAND, but several projects are still waiting on an important product before they can finish up: paint. A Nationwide resin shortage is now impacted road paint availability for several projects around South Dakota. 

“It’s been busy, a lot of traffic goes on this road,” Highway 116 Driver Bruce Sparks said. 

Drivers have enjoyed a fresh new surface on County Highway 116 all summer.

“It’s kind of nice to have that center line so you know where you’re at on the road and even the white line on the edge,” Sparks said. 

But the Lennox exit finally got pavement markings down just last week, months later than planned.

“This is kind of the last thing, pavement markings and signing, so now that we are having the shortage, we’re running into seasonal limitations,” Harry Johnston, the Sioux Falls Area Engineer for the South Dakota Department of Transportation said. 

Similar paint projects have been delayed all over the state as the nation struggles with shortages.

“We’re shuffling a bunch of things around and reprioritizing what needs to be painted,” Johnston said. 

Now in a race against the winter weather, the South Dakota Department of Transportation is looking for alternatives.

“Availability is huge, we’ve changed the type of paint we’re using, just to get some pavement markings on the road,” Johnston said. 

In recent years, Johnston says the DOT switched to a more durable paint for road markings that lasts several years. Now to make sure they have some kind of paint on the road, they’re looking for the waterborne paint they used to use that has more of a one year lifespan. 

“It’s still quality paint, it will still be reflective and delineate the roadway for the traveling public, but there’s a chance we’ll have to come back sooner to put the paint down again,” Johnston said. 

That adds extra expense to these projects that are already requiring more time and money to complete as contractors wait on supplies. 

“We painted centerlines first to try to get some road markings down because the tabs were gone, so we actually ended up making three passes,” Johnston said. 

Generally paint projects are done in two passes, painting the center and edge lines at the same time. The addition passes require more fuel, more workers and more wear and tear on the machines. While its more of a hassle to get these projects done this year, SDDOT says getting pavement markings down is a priority that comes down to public safety. 

“Our ultimate goal is to have at least centerlines down on every roadway before winter,” Johnston said. 

The shortage also means many re-painting projects were pushed back till next year. 

While the resin and road paint shortage is the main problem this fall, Johnson says shortages of many construction materials have delayed projects all summer.

“Its construction as a whole, honestly,” Johnson said.  “We look at different things that have driven the prices up of the materials, its driven the price up of the construction and lengthened the durations the contractors are out there working on the roadway.”

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