The process city workers use to refresh Houston roads may surprise you

Charly Edsitty Image
Thursday, May 13, 2021
Ever wonder how crews paint Houston roads?
You'd think it was just paint and asphalt, right? Well, you'd be wrong! Here's a look at the "oddly satisfying" process that keeps our streets safe.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Have you ever spotted a City of Houston Public Works crew set up on the roadway and wondered what they're doing?

About 2.3 million people call the city home and, according to the Texas Department of Transportation, there are about 5 million registered cars on the road in the Houston area.

It's estimated these cars are all driving about 100 million miles on the roads in our area every single day, so you can only imagine the tremendous need for maintenance and upkeep.

Thanks to the social media app TikTok, thousands of people are getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse into public works crews across the country painting the streets with lane markers, words like "stop" or "slow down," and making sure handicap symbols are visible.

"I grew up in the City of Houston, so as a young child I would always see this and was always curious," said Clyde Williams, a field supervisor with the traffic operations sector of Houston's Public Works Department.

The process of "refreshing" our roads can sometimes start with a request from a citizen, submitted through 311.

At the intersection of Maury Street and Providence Street, the words "stop ahead" were fading and cracking on the roadway, so Clyde and his crew stepped in to fix it.

The weather plays a role in this process because if the streets are wet, it won't work.

RELATED: Spelling mistake quickly corrected on Houston freeway exit sign

A new sign on Houston's North Freeway was missing a letter when it was first placed. Fortunately, TxDOT officials quickly corrected the mistake.

There is no paint involved in their process, which takes about 25 minutes to complete. Instead, thermoplastic stencils are used and carefully aligned on the ground.

"We have different types of stencils, of course," Williams said. "But this particular one is to slow traffic down when you come to a stop sign."

A heat gun is used to melt the plastic so it will adhere to the ground, and temperatures can reach as high as 2,000 degrees.

Glass beads are already imbedded in the stencil to ensure the words are reflective and can be read at night.

So, what happens if there's a spelling mistake?

"We actually had a citizen correct us one time," Williams said. "One of my guys may have spelled 'ahead' the wrong way, so we had to come out and correct it, but it was funny."

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