What is this yellow rubber thing that’s all over The Upper Valley?

What’s Yellow, Rubber & Ubiquitous?

Submitted 4 months ago
Created by
Dave Celone

All over the Upper Valley and around the country, too.

My friend handed this thing to me mad as a hatter. He said, “Here.  Write a story about these. There must be thousands of them all around. And this one just plugged up my lawn mower!”

I took a look at the road in front of his house and, sure enough, it had just been paved and painted. The little yellow rubber thing he gave me was a TOM, or Temporary Overlay Marker. I counted over 400 if them, mostly stuck to the Route 10 pavement running the short distance from Lyme to Post Pond just north of town. Some were missing, and others were unstuck just sitting on their large flat backs. And they keep going north and south. There must be thousands stuck to the road right now over a 10 mile stretch.

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The problem my friend had is that these TOM’s come unstuck by car tires hitting them. Then they wind up on his front lawn becoming a nuisance. And who knows where else they end up.

I’m imagining they could migrate all over the place. Even, perhaps, into our watershed. Maybe into the CT River and on downstream where some beluga whale winds up with one in its belly along with all the other plastic and trash that overwhelms it. Might be a stretch, but who really knows?

The other thing I wonder is about cost. A case of 500 Temporary Overlay Markers, throw-away items, cost $410 online. That’s a little less than a buck apiece. Multiply 400 per quarter mile at about a dollar per and you’ve got $1,600 in TOM costs for a 1 mile stretch of road. $8,400 for the 7-mile stretch from Lyme to Orford on Route 10, just to be thrown away. Our tax dollars hard at work.

Is it a safety issue? Probably. But how hard is it, really, to know what side of the road to drive on even if lines have not yet been painted? I don’t know about you, but I can manage fine without thousands of TOM’s to show the middle.

A little less than a buck apiece. These costs really add up over hundreds of miles of paved and painted Upper Valley roads.

Yes, they are removable, but not reusable. Yes, they’re simple-easy to stick onto the road for temporary use before the lines get painted. And, yes, they do come unglued and unstuck, becoming just that much more junk we have littering our roads (and yards). If they don’t get collected right after line painting, or if it takes a while for the lines to get painted, you can bet there will be many hundreds of these TOM’s shuffling around our beautiful Upper Valley landscape. What do do?

How do we beat the proverbial drum about these wayward TOM’s? Do we want them in our front yards? What are your thoughts? Too much ado over nothing, or is the junk-pile and budget spending by our DOT’s and highway departments growing too high and too fast? Let us know your thoughts, please.


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