MMA and the Fight for Long-Lasting Lines

Our crew works very hard to make our street markings perfect. Every dimension is measured twice and every line is just so. But then, inevitably, the first car drives over the markings and the paint starts to fade. Not only do faded markings look a little grubby, they only function well if they can be seen. With our increased emphasis on crosswalks, we have searched for paint which will stand up better to traffic.

The traditional answer, which can be seen in many urban areas, is thermoplastic coating. It does last longer than ordinary paint, but it comes with a host of downsides. It has to be applied to flawless, 100% dry pavement in perfect weather. More importantly, applying thermoplastics involves literally melting plastic at 450°F, creating a real hazard for crews applying it.

Starting with the new crosswalk between John Wayland and Turner Ashby, we will be trying a more modern product which promises to be better than thermoplastics. Methyl methacrylate (“MMA”) is a two-part product which is mixed onsite and then applied. It cures fast—in less than 30 minutes—so crews have to be fast, but there is also less chance of an errant tire track “decorating” the pavement. Once it cures, it should be fully visible (and functional) for 10 years—as opposed to the 10 days or so we came to expect from traditional paint.

Time will tell about MMA, we suppose, but for now, we’re optimistic and practically giddy about it. It feels good to have a potential solution to one of the hundreds thousands of small challenges we face. Let us know what you think about the new MMA markings. (They will be the ones you can still see.)

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