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Parkway Reflectors More Trouble Than They're Worth?

Now you see them, now you don't.

Those temporary highway reflectors that were recently installed on the passing lanes of the George Washington Memorial Parkway in the Mount Vernon area were no match for the snowplows that had to clear the roads. There are a few lingering along the side of the road, but none were left in their original place on the passing lanes. New reflectors have been reinstalled, but they are still only a temporary fix.

Why the markers? Rich Foster, Chief of Maintenance for the George Washington Parkway, said, "We had just signed a contract for highway striping, but then the weather turned on us. As soon as the weather changes, we'll re-stripe."

Nobody anticipated that the cold weather would hang on for so long. The temperature has to be 50 degrees and rising in order for the paint to adhere. It has to even be a certain temperature to reinstall the temporary markers.

The highway crews wouldn't even be dealing with this situation if the original striping had lasted as long as planned. Foster said that it failed prematurely, due to either faulty materials or installation. Add to that all the sand that they've been using to protect against the ice, and the line markers are very hard to see.

SOME PEOPLE, however, felt that the reflectors made it even more dangerous. Given the fact that they were only installed on the white passing lanes and not on the yellow highway divider markers, at night it gave the illusion that there was only one middle lane instead of two. Foster said that when they reinstall the reflectors, they might either space the white markers further apart and/or install yellow reflectors in the middle of the road.

Foster also said that there are plans underway to request a permanent marking system. That would consist of raised pavement markers that are installed by gouging out the pavement and settling with epoxy. Cost? About $50-75 apiece.

The advantage is that the markers are permanent, and only require the replacing of reflectors inside the markers every 5-7 years. Foster said that probably won't happen for at least a year and is anxious to get something on the road.

"I wish I could be out there today and stripe it," he said.