Skip to content

If you get the little things in life right, the big ones fall into place

Ron Walter writes about painted lines and First Avenue NW
Trading Thoughts by Ron Walter

Establishing a reputation comes down to consistently performing the little pieces of an operation well, or in one adage: “Look after the nickels and dimes and the dollars will take care of themselves.”

The lines painted on roads are among the little things we take for granted. They are just there to show drivers where to go, where they can legally pass and turn.

When the lines fail to do their job, the situation becomes an irritant, one that continues every time the roads are used.

Moose Jaw had nice lines on roads, lines that didn’t wear out until about 15 years ago. Suddenly lines began to wear off in a few months.

City council was told an environmental regulation banning lead from the road line paint was the culprit. Moose Jaw residents do travel outside the city and discovered other cities also not using the lead paint had long lasting road lines.

The excuse then became the high expense of a better paint.

Finally, this year city council was told the longer lasting paint would require repainting only once every seven years. Imagine the cost savings to the city and our property taxes if we only had to paint lines once every seven years.

Which raises the question: has our line painting over the years been a make work project?

Well, council this year approved using the longer-lasting paint on First Avenue Northwest, one of the highest traffic routes in the city.

First is so busy that its width can’t adequately and safely handle the flow of vehicles. That width has led to a series of restrictions – no parking, angular lanes, removal of overhead signs and placement of a temporary left turn only sign at First and Caribou.

That temporary sign came about when we had two city engineers from the Calgary area trying to impose big city rules on a small city. They are gone as is the temporary sign — a sign that was often disobeyed by confused drivers.

The new situation with the seven-year painted lines turned the centre lane into a left hand turn only lane — a change that should smooth the flow of traffic.

But the left-turn lane isn’t doing the job. When the line painters did the two wide yellow lines on this lane the outside lines were made solid.

The consequence of this: most drivers who have been taught not to cross solid yellow lines are turning left from the right hand only lanes. Just go out and watch for a few minutes.

The smaller white turn arrows in the centre lane have faded after two months, creating more confusion.

Apparently the city didn’t have enough good quality paint to do all the lines on First.

Now do we have to wait seven years for the yellow lines to wear out until the matter is corrected?

We’ve been frustrated by this issue for so long our expectations of council are extremely low. Council has a reputation for not getting the little things right.

Ron Walter can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.