Those attractive "wagon wheel" crosswalks in downtown Bingen are not so attractive these days. The once bright and colorful patterns have worn through in many areas, and Bingen city officials are not pleased.
The crosswalks were installed in June 2004, and were promoted as being especially durable. The "DuraTherm" process -- which cost the city about $90,000 to install -- was specifically designed for roads with heavy traffic, and were promoted as "lasting as long as the asphalt."
The new technology was considered so impressive, the Bingen project was featured on the front cover of the Aug. 16, 2004, issue of Oregon Contractor, a weekly magazine geared to report on construction projects "in Oregon, southwest Washington, and the Pacific Northwest."
Brix Paving Co. of Tualatin, Ore., applied the decorative crosswalks.
"This DuraTherm project .. was one of the first projects of its kind in the Northwest," read an excerpt from the magazine feature. "DuraTherm is a decorative inlaid thermoplastic designed for high traffic applications ... the inlaid design and colors ... last as long as the asphalt."
The crosswalk inlays were put into place soon after the State Route 14 repaving project was finished in 2004.
On May 31, Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel met with representatives of the product manufacturer (DuraTherm), representatives from the crosswalk applicator (Brix Paving Co.), and Washington Department of Transportation (WDOT) officials to try to find a solution to the problem.
The meeting, however, did not resolve much.
"At this point, nobody has any answers," Prigel said on Friday.
Prigel said the group toured the downtown area for about two hours, inspecting the various crosswalks.
According to Prigel, WDOT will be taking core samples of the asphalt where the crosswalks are located within the next week or two to determine whether the asphalt itself is the problem.
"If the asphalt has issues, that's to be determined," Prigel said. "Everyone agreed we wanted to find out what the cause was, and we wanted to get assurance that if it's redone, this wouldn't happen again in two years."
Bingen City Council member Betty Barnes said she remembered the manufacturer's claims that the crosswalks would last as long as the pavement would.
"I consider that a guarantee," Barnes said. "You should certainly expect more than a year and a half out a product we spent that much money on. I'm disappointed they've deteriorated, but I understand they plan to make it right."
Even if the problem is uncovered and a solution found, Prigel said he is not certain who would finance a possible fix.
"There is no decision on who would pay," Prigel said. "We haven't gotten into that yet. Once we get the answer from the core samples, we'll look at the costs and who's going to pay."