Highway departments across North America are unable to paint stripes on the pavement because of a shortage of two key components: methyl methacrylate (MMA) and titanium dioxide (TiO2).
MMA is the durable acrylic resin used in highway paint. Dow Chemical is the largest MMA producer in the world, but over the past two years the chemical giant shut down 60% of its production due to reduced demand from the economic recession. They were caught unprepared for the sudden demand when Federal stimulus projects came online this spring. Chinese suppliers are reserving their supply for Chinese highway projects. The result: an acute shortage of highway paint.
The other ingredient, titanium dioxide, is the bright white pigment used in everything from paint to toothpaste. The main exporter is China, and historically this pigment has been very inexpensive. China recently, however, curtailed their exports of the pigment for their own highway projects.
San Jose, CA is delaying bike lane markings because of the paint shortage.
More @ Engineering News Record: Highway Paint Is in Short Supply. H/T to Paul Metz.