PROSSER -- Drivers probably won't see double yellow or white lines anytime soon on newly resurfaced roads in Kennewick and rural Benton County.
Road crews just don't have the paint to lay down those lines.
"It's a national problem," Norm Childress told Benton County commissioners who were meeting Monday in Prosser.
The paint shortage is affecting springtime road projects in every state, Childress said. "Everybody is crying in their beer over this," he said.
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Well, not everybody, and certainly not Gary Fitch, Franklin County's road supervisor.
"I ordered ours early," Fitch said.
He's got 8,450 gallons of the now-scarce traffic paint stowed in the public works yard. That should be enough to do the annual touch-up on county roads, he said.
Not so in Benton County, where Childress said it could be "three weeks, three months or six months" before he receives the paint he needs.
Benton County has been laying down chipped rock and oil sealing on roads for two weeks, both in Kennewick and rural areas. Drivers can travel on the new surfaces, but without painted lines they are left to guess where the fog line, lanes and center lines are.
"People have been calling about the roads, asking where the lines are," Childress said.
Part of the problem can be traced to manufacturers who use methyl methacrylate to make the paint more durable and reflective.
A fire at a manufacturing plant in Texas that produces striping paint wiped out existing stocks, Childress said.
And DuPont, another source of the critical ingredient for traffic paint, scaled back production during the recent economic slowdown, according to GovPro, a website for government agencies about products and purchasing.
A New York Times newspaper report in late May said the shortage posed "very significant ramifications for completion of highway projects this summer," according to the Associated General Contractors of America.
Kennewick's Peter Beaudry, director of municipal services, said Kennewick ordered the normal amount of paint it would need for the year, only to find out August is the soonest it could be delivered.
Without paint, Kennewick has placed flexible tab reflectors on newly resurfaced roads to indicate lanes at approaches to intersections. But those tabs will not last long.
"In reality, our options are fairly limited," Beaudry said.
Childress said Benton County motorists should not expect to see painted lines until August or September.
But Fitch said he's willing to share some of Franklin County's supply of paint if it was important. "Most of my striping is restriping, so I could wait a bit if I had to. I'd help out another agency if it became an issue of traffic safety," he said.
* John Trumbo: 509-582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org