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Orange Work Zone Pavement Marking Midwest Field Test

Status: Complete

Description: Roadway lanes are often repositioned to accommodate highway work operations, resulting in a need to alter pavement markings. Even the most effective methods for removing old pavement markings sometimes leave “ghost” markings at the old lane line locations. The ghosts can be quite conspicuous under certain lighting conditions and viewing angles. To address this issue, some international jurisdictions use a special marking color (orange or yellow) to increase the salience of temporary lane lines; this practice appears to have originated in Germany in the 1980s and is now routine in several European countries and the Canadian province of Ontario. Special-color markings have also been used experimentally in Australia, New Zealand, and Quebec. In some jurisdictions the special-color markings override existing markings (such that the old markings are left in place), while other jurisdictions use special-color temporary marking but also attempt to remove old lane lines. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) experimented with orange work zone marking on a high-volume long-term freeway-to-freeway interchange reconstruction project in Milwaukee; surveys indicate good driver acceptance, but the complex traffic flow characteristics and frequent configuration changes at the site make it difficult to separate the effects of the orange markings from other aspects of the work zone management strategy. To assess the driver behavior aspects of orange markings in a simpler environment, a matched-pair study was conducted on two bridge re-decking projects on I-94 near Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Evaluation of vehicle positioning and speed data indicated very similar driver behavior with the two colors. Driver surveys and interviews with project field engineers indicated a preference for the orange marking when lateral lane shifts are required. Perhaps the most pragmatic approach is to reserve orange as an emphasis color for specific work zone locations that require difficult driving maneuvers.

Report: orange_work_zone_pvmt_marking_field_test_w_cvr.pdf 5.2 mb (published 2018)

State conducting research: Wisconsin


  • Santiago-Chaparro, Kelvin (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
  • Qin, Lingqiao (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
  • Shaw, John (Iowa State University)
  • Chitturi, Madhav (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
  • Bill, Andrea (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
  • Noyce, David (University of Wisconsin, Madison)
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