Investigation of the Impact of Snow Removal Activities on Pavement Markings in Virginia

Report No: 96-R3

Published in 1995

About the report:

Snow removal activities resulted in substantial damage to pavement markings in Virginia over the last 2 years. Typically, the estimates of the extent of pavement marking damage are based on the observations of the staff of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). For example, it was estimated that about half of the pavement markings statewide were damaged during the 1993-94 winter and that replacement costs were $8 million. The objective of this study was to obtain accurate data on the pavement marking damage caused exclusively by carbide-tipped blades. Data were collected at 22 study sites on interstate highways and principal arterials because of the prevalence of a variety of pavement markings and the designation of these roads as high-priority routes for snow removal. Three types of pavement markings--latex paint, thermoplastic, and waffle tape--were assessed for damage. For the study sites, damage caused by snowplows during the 1994-95 winter were estimated to be between $100,100 and $137,700 for waffle tape and $400 to $600 for paint, for a total of $100,500 to $138,300. The estimated retroreflectivity loss of 10 to 15 percent for both markings represented the majority of the costs. About $25,000 of the damage to waffle tape was for markings that were plowed from the roadway. There was no evidence that thermoplastic markings incurred much damage. This is probably because there were few or no instances where ice bonded to the pavement markings. It is believed that thermoplastic marking damage is greatest when this bonding occurs. Moreover, there is less confidence in the before data for thermoplastic markings. Based on data gathered at the study sites, the estimated statewide cost of damage caused by snowplows was between $1.58 and $2.26 million for waffle tape and between $1.06 and $1.59 million for paint, for a total of between $2.64 and $3.85 million. It should be noted, however, that the 1994-95 winter was relatively mild compared to a typical winter in Virginia. The study recommends that VDOT (1) take measures to protect its investment in pavement markings from snowplow damage, (2) comprehensively assess pavement marking damage caused by other maintenance activities, and (3) designate the inlaid method as the primary installation method for waffle tape.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.

Last updated: December 17, 2023

Alert Icon

Please note that this file is not ADA compliant. Choose one of below options: