#HeadsUp: Weather, supply chain issues impact highway striping in Wyoming towns, rural areas in 2021

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(Fremont County, WY) – Northwest Wyoming and the rest of the Cowboy State were impacted in 2021 by freezing weather this past spring where the Wyoming Department of Transportation annually purchases its highway striping paint in Texas.

“Weather and supply chain issues combined in such a way that paint manufacturers were unable to acquire enough raw materials to operate at normal levels, which led to an industry-wide paint shortage,” said WYDOT District 5 Traffic Engineer Jack Hoffman. “The cold weather in Texas impacted the production of resin, a key ingredient in making paint. Paint manufacturers were unable to obtain resin, and therefore were unable to make paint in the same quantities as past years.”

As an example, WYDOT District 5 (northwest Wyoming) ordered 31,260 gallons of white paint in 2021 and received 16,250 gallons, a deficit of 15,000 gallons. An additional 28,480 gallons of yellow paint were ordered in 2021, and 19,480 gallons were received (a 9,000-gallon deficit).

The lack of paint impacted WYDOT’s two northwest Wyoming paint crews.

In normal years, WYDOT’s urban crew stripes each city/town twice. Due to the shortage, WYDOT was only able to paint stripes in each city/town once in 2021. “We did not paint curbs, rest areas or parking lots, unless it was new construction,” Hoffman said.

WYDOT’s rural crew was only able to paint stripes on about 1,500 miles of highways in 2021, about half of normal. In 2019, the last normal year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, WYDOT’s rural striping crew was able to paint 2,850 miles of highways (1,700 miles of yellow centerline and 700 miles of white edge line on both sides of the highways).

Statewide due to the paint shortage, Hoffman said WYDOT was forced to prioritize which Wyoming highways would receive striping paint in 2021.

“Our highest priority for use of the striping paint was to be able to stripe all of our surfacing projects in northwest Wyoming, including new pavement,” Hoffman said. “We then focused on our higher volume highways (U.S. 20, U.S. 26, U.S. 14/16/20) and locations with curvilinear alignments and areas requiring additional motorist guidance (intersections, passing lanes, turning lanes, etc.).”

Hoffman said Wyoming’s other four transportation districts experienced similar paint shortages, too. “Our other districts ranged from 21,000 gallons short to ‘a couple of loads short,’ or 6,000- to 12,000-gallon paint deficits,” he said.

Hoffman said parts of WYDOT’s annual paint order have continued to be delivered throughout the summer and fall. “These late deliveries of paint helped us to choose areas in the greatest need of striping, especially roads where striping had faded, high snow areas where plows scrape the paint off the road, and areas with higher traffic volumes,” Hoffman added.

Hoffman said District 5 received a delivery of 6,000 gallons of white paint this fall. “We are placing that on edge lines of highways as the fall and early winter weather allows,” he said.

WYDOT’s hope remains that 2022 will return to normal as far as highway striping, the availability of paint, and the highway safety benefits of striped highways. “It would help if the (paint) resin supply returns to normal, and that we receive our full paint supply,” Hoffman said. “If there are no issues with the paint supply, our plan is to stripe the yellow center line on all state highways in northwest Wyoming in 2022. But because we were short a significant amount of white paint this year, it may take a year or two to get back on schedule for white edge line around the district.”

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