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Engineering & Estimating- Are you Missing the Hidden Line Striping?

Line striping is a unique professional service and many paving estimators and engineering designers often look at the percentage of cost to projects as minor or insignificant. For years this had been the case, pennies on the dollar of the total contract price. Over the past 15 years or so, times have been changing.

Line striping or should we say, “Pavement Markings”, which better describes all the variety or specialty markings associated with road building or highway maintenance projects are becoming more costly. If your estimators or design teams are missing hidden or incidental costs or you have to go back to the owner or municipal agency and request a change order, you may or may not get paid for what could be substantial additional cost. Why don’t we take some time to look at how we can educate your estimators and designers to capture or question the hidden items that can make your project more profitable.

Many design teams, look at pavement markings and only think about what will be needed on the final wearing course of paving. With thirty-six plus years of experience in the pavement marking industry, I constantly see  no quantities associated with temporary markings or road building phases of roadway construction paving projects. Not only are these items missing from the bid form, but in many circumstances the missed items could create a significant liability for the construction contractor and the owner or permit holder.

With the proper education, estimators will have the knowledge to ask the important questions, that will alleviate the potential fighting to get paid for these items. Estimators putting in the correct RFIs (Request for Information), during the bidding process, will also provide a trail for determining liability if the owner or municipality are looking to cut corners and not provide temporary pavement markings for safety, during various phases of construction. Remember, we operate in a litigious society, and someone or some company is always responsible for another’s safety. Why don’t we dive into some of these potential pitfalls.

HOP plans (Highway Occupancy Permits) or roadway maintenance projects often involve at minimum changes to the existing roadway. These changes may simply consist of milling the existing asphalt surface before repaving. In a case that simply involves milling off the existing asphalt before placing a new wearing surface, if no temporary pavement markings are included in the bid for the milled surface, how will vehicles safely navigate this section roadway until the wearing course is placed. Sometimes this may just be overnight, or it could extend to a week or more before the wearing is placed. In either case no pavement markings create a liability for someone if an accident or death occurs. Estimators need to be trained to ask if temporary pavement markings will be required and if not who will be responsible for any accidents. The other thing the estimator needs to understand, is a milled roadway may require multiple coats of paint if the milled surface sets for multiple days or weeks. When asphalt surfaces are milled, there is dust that settles in the milling grooves, that is impossible to clean sufficiently, so paint will adhere properly for extended period. There often is water present from the milling process, with does not allow paint to bond properly to the roadway surface. So in many cases to provide proper safety for the traveling public, the paving contractor may have to have milled surfaces painted one, two or more times based on how long the milled surface will sit before wearing is placed.

Construction phases could also include widening of the roadway for turn lanes or acceleration lanes. In cases such as these, temporary markings may need to be placed so that traffic can utilize the new roadway configuration safely. If these areas are not planned to be open to the public until the final wearing is placed temporary striping may need to be placed along the areas of widening (typically temporary edge lines) to close these lanes.

Phased construction may consist of a great deal of temporary pavement markings and the need for pavement marking removal to change the configuration of the roadway while various phases of the roadway are expanded or reconfigured. Often during this type of construction, traffic lanes will have to be shifted to one side of the roadway to allow additional workspace for construction equipment to construct areas of widening or new and additional lanes. In order to perform this phased construction existing and or temporary pavement markings will need to be removed in each phase of construction to shift from phase to phase. Removal of pavement markings are need in this type of construction so that conflicting markings are eradicated to alleviate confusion for motorists. The most efficient and fastest way to remove pavement markings is by Hydro blasting, while also providing an environmentally friendly removal method. There must also be consideration for additional pavement marking application if the project extends over winter shutdown periods, or alternative durable markings in climates susceptible to snow.

During the paving of the wearing coarse of paving estimators and designers must also consider the need for temporary markings if the final markings will be durable pavement markings such as Thermoplastic, Epoxy, MMA, Etc. When durable markings are applied, a temporary marking will need to be applied between the interim of the wearing course paving and the application of the durable marking. Almost always the durable marking can not be applied on the day the final paving is laid. Acceptable temporary markings used in this interim depend on state specifications and can be shadow or ghost lines (thin layer of paint usually half the millage of permanent paint). Other method for temporary markings on the wearing surface are various types of temporary removable tapes. If removable tapes are used, they will have to be removed and disposed of prior to the application of the durable marking.  But in any case, there can be a substantial cost associated with the application and or removal of temporary markings.

In the event waterborne paint makings are applied to the final wearing course, there should be two coats of paint applied to insure durability. Many line stripers will only provide a cost for one coat of paint unless the specification specify two coats of paint. Often discrepancies arise between the striping contractors, paving contractor and inspectors, because the design teams fails to include enough quantity for two coats of paint or any notation in the specifications. Another area of misunderstanding is when grooved in rumble strips are installed. In order to place the rumbles strips in the proper location the pavement marking contractor will need to apply the first coat of paint to the wearing surface and then the rumbles strips are cut. After the rumble strips are a second coat of paint will need to be applied so that a marking is visible in the rumble strips. Estimators and designers need to have knowledge, question, or consider the costs associated with final wearing markings.

The items discussed in this article can add substantial costs to the construction project. As stated previously the cost of line striping is increasing constantly. The most recent escalation in prices is related to the inflationary cost of materials and supplies. Other costs affecting the striping industry is the soaring cost of equipment, for instance new paint trucks can range in price from $350,000 to $550,000 for basic trucks. Hydro blasters can range in price from $600,000 to $950,000. Epoxy and Thermoplastic trucks can range in price from $650,000 to over a million dollars. Then there are the costs associated with labor. CDL drivers, skilled operators and layout technicians, along with the rotating shifts, constantly changing and long hours are pushing cost for striping higher.

This striping industry is no longer an insignificant cost, or a portion of the construction trade that has often been treated with a lack of respect or consideration. Striping contractors now are an important and key player in the road construction and maintenance industry. We are an industry that wants to be a team player, earns the respect of our construction partners and make sure that those we work with and that design projects understand all the components associated with our scope of work.

Written by David Gemmill President of D. E. Gemmill Inc.



Craig Adams, Inc. has used D.E. Gemmill exclusively for our Line Painting and Signage needs since the 90’s.  We have always been very pleased with the quality of work performed, jobs completed in a timely fashion, and at competitive prices, on all size projects.  A great company to do business with!

— B. Keller , General Manager    , W. Craig Adams Inc

It has always been a positive experience working with D.E. Gemmill. It all starts in the estimating department where I can always count on receiving a proposal that is accurate and thorough. Then we have the tough task of scheduling on tight time frame jobs where Cary and Dave always seem to work us in when we need it. The field guys always do their best to bring to our attention possible conflicts that could present problems if they notice something that isn’t quite right.

I would recommend D.E. Gemmill’s services for anyone looking to have professional and quality workmanship on their projects.

— W. Stevens , Project Manager , Mainline Excavating

We wanted to send you a thank you for the great job. The men working were very good and completed their job very professionally. I really like when you have a great team to work with. Again thank you and your crew, we would recommend your company to anyone.

— W. Willders , Westminster Place At Stewartstown

I would like to let you know that the line painting crew (Donnie, Albert, Scott, Tom, and Possum) did a fantastic job this week. It was a pleasure to work with them and the respect they showed me while I was riding along. Please pass my appreciation along to them.

Also if you can get Donnie into singing lessons that would be great.  My ears still feel the pain.


— S. Walker , City of Lebanon – Traffic Shop

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