Washington curbs might soon have a lot less yellow paint.

The city of Washington’s traffic commission took its first steps into a potential “significant” project Friday morning when it began discussing what to do with no-parking zones not covered by city ordinance. Members of the commission agreed to move forward with finding a solution to undocumented painted curbs.

The issue was raised by the city’s street department. During this summer’s painting project, crews noticed the area at Stafford and 12th streets has yellow paint to designate a no-parking zone, but no ordinance to back it up.

Director of Public Services John Nilges said Stafford and 12th is not an isolated spot.

“(It’s) all over town,” he said. “It’s everywhere.”

No-Parking Zones

All no-parking zones are either covered by city code or a designated ordinance. However, some curbs in town have been covered in yellow paint and there’s no ordinance or code to designate it a no-parking zone. Without anything on the books, the zone is not enforceable by police.

Nilges speculated people either painted the curbs originally themselves, or asked the city to do so at one point without an ordinance. When crews do their regular refreshing, they just paint over existing yellow.

Nilges said he’s started the process of seeing what it would take to remove the paint completely. He’s in talks with vendors about water blasting the paint off the road at Fifth Street near the Sonic restaurant where city crews tried to remove a turn lane with paint.

The paint job is already wearing, so Nilges said the city is getting information on how to water blast off the original turn signal. While checking in on that, he said he’s trying to figure out a cost to remove paint from curbs.

“The only way to remove the striping is to water blast that off,” he said. “We don’t have the equipment to do that, so we have to (subcontract) that out.”

Nilges said paint removal is not something the city has done in the past, so it’s hard to gauge what it would cost. He said he could pull some numbers together and hopefully have more information for the traffic board at its January meeting.

Getting Started

Nilges said getting cost estimates is just the start of the project. He said the scope is so large the city needs to commit to addressing every inconsistency and not just a few.

To combat the issue, Nilges said the city has to commit to starting over. It has to put the money in to remove the noncomforming paint.

“This is a pretty significant project,” Nilges said.

“Moving forward you would know who is painting them and who is not,” he said. “Then they’d get letters from us saying they have to be removed. We’d have to proactively go after it.”

Fire Chief Bill Halmich suggested changing the paint color one year and only painting curbs covered by the ordinance. By using a different shade of yellow, he said the city would be able to tell what curbs were compliant and which ones weren’t.

Street Superintendent Tony Bonastia said the paint used isn’t consistent enough to guarantee a certain shade of yellow.

Bonastia said some of the excess paint is around for a reason. He said there’s a lot of paint near stop signs to mark where the city code says drivers can’t park. The code doesn’t require the area painted yellow, but at some point some curbs got a coat of paint.

Police officer Mike Grissom suggested next year during painting season, street department crews have a list of every spot covered by ordinance. If it’s not covered by ordinance, it doesn’t get a coat of paint. Otherwise, he said it would be almost a full-time job for someone for some time to go around and mark what yellow paint is supposed to be on the curbs.

Next Steps

Nilges said waiting until painting season would make sense. He said he could work with Bonastia’s crews before they go out daily and tell them what gets painted and what doesn’t.

Nilges said yellow paint that is not covered by ordinance could then be marked with black spray paint so the city can get it removed.

Grissom said once the city starts removing paint, the commission will be flooded with requests for official no-parking zones.

The commission agreed to let Nilges seek pricing for water blasting and continue discussing a plan next month.