George Brophy, left, sales manager of Franklin Paint, and Al Frasca, a foreman for the traffic and signs department, work on installing new thermoplastic pavement markings. The more reflective markings were put down in an effort to improve safety on Main Street by City Hall and should last four times longer than traditional paint.

It’s not every day that you see Haverhill Police Chief Alan DeNaro on traffic detail.

But that’s just what he was doing last Wednesday morning on upper Main Street as the Public Works Department applied Hot Tape — thermoplastic, ultra-reflective pavement marking sheets — to the faded, high-traffic crosswalks closest to City Hall. Police and the DPW officials hope the innovative material will increase pedestrian safety and save hours of labor for maintenance in the future.

According to DeNaro, Haverhill is the first city in Essex County to use the product, made by Flint Trading, Inc. Old windshields are pulverized into a fine powder and then made into glass beads. The beads are then worked throughout the thermoplastic sheets, which are “melted” onto the roadway with a blow torch.

DeNaro said Hot Tape is durable and much more visible at night because the beads, which reflect headlights, are worked throughout the sheet, unlike regular street paint where the beads are only sprinkled over the layer of paint and allowed to settle. The Hot Tape is quicker to apply than paint and lasts four to five times longer.

“This is an area where there have been several accidents resulting in injury and in some cases, fatalities,” said DeNaro, who added that if the new product works well, it will probably be used in the city’s most dangerous intersections. “It will last three to four years on a high traffic roadway; we only get eight months out of paint. It’s easy to repair if a plow rips some of it up — you can have a patch applied (very quickly).”

The street surface must be heated to 300 degrees Fahrenheit before the sheet is placed over it. The glass beads are self-cleansing in rainstorms, helping the crosswalk maintain its visibility.

Rather than diagonal painted stripes, called “zebra stripes” in the industry, the Hot Tape was applied to run parallel with the roadway, known as “piano key” or “ladder” striping. According to DPW Foreman Ray Bradshaw, ladder striping is widely accepted as the safest design for crosswalks because it stands out better.

“(Ladder striping) is common in Europe, where they’ve been using that style for (years),” Bradshaw said. “It is more visible than anything else they have come up with. They also say white markings are better than yellow.”

Updating the crosswalks with the new material was not taken lightly. DeNaro and the DPW worked with Flint for weeks before deciding to try Hot Tape on Haverhill’s busiest street.

The change was set into motion when the DPW took its road painting machines to Flint for maintenance service. Employees with the company told the DPW about the new product and allowed Bradshaw to test sample sheets at the DPW’s garage on Primrose Street. DeNaro took a look at the samples afterward and decided along with officials at the DPW to give the new technology a try on Main Street.

The Hot Tape stripes took about two hours to apply and are spaced about a foot apart across the roadway. Traffic delays were minimal on Route 125, despite the road going down to one lane during the installation.

“At night, drivers had a hard time seeing the paint,” DeNaro said. “We want to save lives and this is part of that effort.”

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