When Frank Magaro pulled to the side of Lincoln Way in White Oak to allow a firetruck to pass, he noticed in his mirror that the white paint line marking the edge of the road had fresh tire tracks.
A short distance later, he came upon a PennDOT paint truck operating in the same direction.
When he reached his destination, he discovered those tracks belonged to him. White highway paint had splashed and dried on the wheels, running boards and rubber splash guards of his 2000 Dodge Durango.
"I take extremely good care of my vehicle," he said. "It's in mint condition. It's garage-kept at work and home. I have a diamond-gloss coating applied every year and have it undercoated and rust-proofed to keep it like new. Right now, it looks pretty bad."
Mr. Magaro not only wanted to register a complaint but also to find out where he could seek help with what he said was "going to cost me a bundle to get the paint taken off without damaging the finish."
It's a complaint I hear every year.
It's a problem PennDOT faces every year, especially this time of year, when lane-striping has moved from interstates and major highways to hundreds of secondary roads such as Lincoln Way.
I referred Mr. Magaro to PennDOT's local engineering office, in this case, District 11 in Collier. That's the procedure for people seeking reimbursement for damage. He faces an uphill bureaucratic battle, albeit not an impossible one.
Statewide, PennDOT paid 713 claims for paint damage last year, not bad, considering its 21 paint crews painted 124,000 miles of yellow and white lines, or enough to circle the world five times. Workers used 1.8 million gallons of paint and 12 million pounds of powder-like glass beads for reflectivity for fog and night-driving.
The paint is latex-based, so you can wash it off with water if you get to it quick. It is also heated to 120 degrees before spraying, so the paint will dry in a couple of minutes, depending on humidity and other conditions.
PennDOT asks line-painting crews to pull to the side of the road every 21/2 miles, or as conditions suggest, to help with traffic flow and cope with impatient drivers.
Crews are supposed to record license plates of drivers who intentionally track paint, who weave between the paint truck and "shadow trucks" that provide spacing for the lines to dry a bit or who scheme to claim damages.
If your motor vehicle gets painted courtesy of PennDOT, the department suggests you wash the paint off as quickly as possible with a high-pressure hose. Usually, those found in car washes will do.
If the paint is dry, a PennDOT official recommends that you use Goof Off.
That's the brand name for a speciality paint and stain remover that's supposed to be good on latex-based paint. You also can use denatured alcohol. In either case, use a soft cloth and don't rub hard.
PennDOT. Goof Off. We could have fun with that one, couldn't we?
Future Interstate 79 work. Thelma Oliver, of Sewickley, wonders when PennDOT will fix I-79 between the Ohio River and the Interstate 279 split in Franklin Park, a stretch, she says, is "worse than the Ho Chi Minh Trail."
I provided an update some months ago. The plans and the schedule are unchanged, but a reminder is in order because of its importance.
First, they're going to finish the two-year, $93 million reconstruction between Crafton and Bridgeville this fall, the busiest stretch of the 180-mile highway between West Virginia and Erie.
Then comes the two-year, $50 million reconstruction of the Ho Chi Minh Trail stretch, a highly disruptive piece of work because there's less room to temporarily maintain traffic in two directions on one side of the highway than in the current work zone around the Parkway West.
Traffic crossovers are to be built this fall. Restrictions and reconstruction will start in the spring. Because the old concrete is turning into rubble, PennDOT was forced to replace a few of the worst road slabs last week.
Also this fall, PennDOT plans to award the contract and do preliminary work on the "missing ramps" at the I-79/Parkway West interchange, a $70 million project that won't interfere with traffic before 2008, when the contractor ties ramps into highway mainlines.
PennDOT currently is making $3 million in repairs to I-79 bridges over the Ohio River and ramps to and from Route 65 at Glenfield, work restricting lanes but not inconveniencing drivers a lot.
Elsewhere. Officials in Newark have opened a $208 million, one-mile light-rail line linking two of NJ Transit's busiest rail stations to its downtown district.
Believe it. In a new book, "Flattened Fauna," retired biology professor Roger M. Knutson says for every live animal observed on highways, up to 25 animals are likely to be "plastered to the pavement."
Plate du jour. Transportation consultant Bruce Ahern, of Beaver County, spotted the Pennsylvania personalized license plate HAS GAS. "A little dicey, but I'd stay well behind this car," he e-mailed.
Joe Grata can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1985.