To the editor:
The Deseret News story of Feb. 22, about the Utah Department of Transportation's use of reflective tape for highway markings, exaggerated the failures and completely ignored the many successful applications of the material.Reporter Matthew Brown gives the impression a majority of reflective tape applications have been subject to "large-scale failures." This is totally false. On the whole, UDOT's experience with reflective tape has been extremely successful. Even on the projects reported as "failures" by the Deseret News, the tape is averaging a 98 percent success rate.
The Deseret News was correct when it reported tape coming up in crosswalk areas. However, crosswalks make up a small percentage of the tape applied to highways. Taken as a whole, 98 percent of the tape applied in these projects has adhered to the pavement, while 2 percent has failed, for a variety of reasons that we believe we have identified.
This small failure rate and overwhelming rate of success was somehow not considered significant as the reporter prepared his story.
Even a 2 percent failure rate is not acceptable to UDOT. We have worked closely with the tape manufacturer to identify both the reason for the tape coming off the pavement and to develop techniques to correct and prevent the problem. We are confident solutions have been identified and will be implemented as soon as weather permits.
The initial cost of reflective tape is higher than paint. But when that cost is compared to the cost of applying paint repeatedly over the expected six- or seven-year life of tape, the tape is the more cost-effective.
The use of reflective tape has many advantages in its use as highway marking material. Conversely, regular paint wears out quickly and must be repainted two, three or even four times a year to provide the same visibility and delineation.
The ability of reflective tape to last many years has a direct benefit to the motoring public. Each time striping material, whether paint or tape, is installed, it requires traffic restrictions and lane closures. The durability of tape means those inconveniences are inflicted on motorists only once every six, eight or 10 years instead of several times annually.
Tape has been proven to provide good, all-around visibility under a majority of conditions. It is highly visible during the day and provides good reflectivity at night, even after it has been in place for many years.
Other materials tested and studied by UDOT may have excelled in one area or another but not overall. For example, the Deseret News report mentioned epoxy as having better nighttime reflectivity. What the News failed to report is the poor visibility epoxies have during daylight hours and inclement weather.
UDOT regularly studies and tests numerous products in the hopes of finding and developing materials and techniques which will benefit Utah's highways and the people they serve. Reflective tape is the result of UDOT looking for better solutions than having to paint lines on the highway several times each year.
Eugene H. Findlay
Utah Department of Transportation
Editor's note: The successes and failures of reflective road tape were determined after several interviews and/
or visits to road sites with Utah Department of Transportation engineers, the tape's manufacturer and the contractor that installed the tape. As for a 98 percent success rate, that figure was never disclosed to the Deseret News. Instead, UDOT told reporter Matthew Brown that it "believed" successes outnumbered failures, although engineers hadn't kept track of the tape's performance over the years and couldn't prove it.