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2021 Mousetrap Winner - Pioneer Award

Recessed Lane Indicator

Independent Highway District, ID

Download 2021 Booklet as PDF

Schweitzer Mountain Road in the Independent Highway District (IHD), ID, gets anywhere from 100 to 300 inches of snow annually. Maintenance crews plow the road multiple times per day, which results in the scraping away of pavement markings. The reduction in visibility presented a safety hazard for drivers and for snow plow teams trying to get up and down the well-traveled route to the local ski area. “The road is one curve to the next and snow plow trucks tend to drive in a straight line. We needed a solution to keep the trucks on the road and not in the drop-offs,” said Mel Bailey with the IHD.

The IHD developed the Recessed Lane Indicator. The process involves making indentations or divots along the roadway’s centerline using metal plates and then covering them with thermoplastic markings that can remain visible for up to 10 years. “We looked at other options that included the use of delineators, but they were troublesome for snow removal. And we considered recessed striping the road, but the cost was too high, and it would only hold up for 5 years,” said Mel. According to the IHD, the Recessed Lane Indicator works better, holds up better, and costs less. “Everyone was especially happy about this because it did not change the bid price for paving contracts, which was surprising,” said Mel.

The IHD is composed of four people and has a small budget. The biggest challenge with the innovative solution was working with the thermoplastic. According to Mel, “It has to be heated with a torch or flame, but there’s a fine line between burning the material and melting it to get it to stick to the pavement properly. That’s a skill set that is gained by doing the job. It doesn’t take too long for someone to learn the skill. When heated partially, the surface should look like a toasted marshmallow over a campfire.”

The IHD’s advice to agencies hesitant to step outside the box to solve problems: “Nothing ventured is nothing gained. Listen to the workers in the field. Ideas start from the ground up. Don’t be afraid to try something different than what you’ve done before,” said Mel. 

Congratulations to the IHD as the FHWA 2021 Build a Better Mousetrap Pioneer Award recipient.

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