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Lost Highway Botts Dots

Botts Dots
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Botts Dots

They were invented by a guy named Elbert Botts. Botts worked for the California Department of Transportation as chief of the highway pavement division.

In the 1950s, Botts was looking for a way to warn motorists when hey wandered out of their lanes. He came up with a raised dome that could be made out of plastic, ceramic or polyester.

He tried raised markers held in place with a spike but the ceramic markers would brake apart in the traffic and the spikes would remain as a hazard. A former student of Botts', Herb Rooney, developed a fast-setting, tough epoxy that solved the problem. The glue worked so well that some of the dots have been in place for more than 30 years.

The first markers were placed on I-80 in Solano County and Highway 99 in Fresno in 1966. The rumble effect of the raised markers, warning drivers that they are drifting from their lanes, was an unplanned advantage of the Botts Dots.

The bigger Botts Dots are usually spaced 48 feet apart, while the smaller dots are 4 feet apart.

They aren't officially called Botts Dots. They are known as raised pavement markers. Unfortunately, Elbert Botts died in 1961, so he didn't find out he became famous.

Today they are used on many highways throughout the U.S. and much of the world except where snow removal equipment would pop them off.

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One of my favorite publications is "Invention & Technology", a magazine devoted to the history and development of man's industrial-age achievements. A recent issue included an article about Elbert Dysart Botts, a paint chemist of this century and inventor of the imaginative "Botts Dots".

Few drivers recognize the surname Botts; however, many have encountered the enameled road dots which bear the name. Probably a good many as well have been jarred back to consciousness by the staccato beat of their tires on the dots as they veered slowly out of their lane due to ininternal linkattention or sleepiness. There is no question that -- annoying as the markers can be when sprinkled too liberally about the pavement -- they serve an extremely important safeguarding function.

Before his work with the California Department of Transportation in the 1950's, Botts held a 16-year tenure as professor of chemistry at San Jose State University in California. At CalTrans, his interest led him towards the invention of reflective paint materials which -- when applied to concrete -- would be visible at night at a distance. His initial efforts were unsuccessful, as the paint disappeared under internal linkwater, and an alternative approach -- an application involving reflective paint markers -- was developed.

Reflective paint markers, which were created through a collaborative effort with at least one of Botts' former students, underwent a series of internal linkevolutionary improvements. They have taken two major forms: reflective, square markers made of high-impact polyester; and, plain round domes made of dense ceramic or plastic. Both are adhered to the road surface with a bituminous epoxy which sets up rapidly. The plain domes are typically used as parallel lane dividers, while the reflective markers are used for more crucial situations: to identify fire hydrants; to denote centerlines on two-lane highways; and, as wrong-direction indicators.

At least a decade in development, Botts Dots were not actually implemented until 1966, four years after Botts' death. The first highways to sport the Botts creation were Interstate 90 northeast of San Francisco, and U.S. Highway 99 near Fresno.

Botts was a true public servant. He did not live to see the results of his research efforts, nor did he earn royalties from his inventions. Yet he left a small legacy which has spawned into a vast internal linknetwork which protects the safety of commuters.

Information for this article was obtained from: "Dot Dot Dot", by Michael Lamm, American Heritage of Invention & Technology, Vol. 12, No. 2, Fall 1996.

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first mention of Botts Dots in internal linkUsenet:

From: ed@unisoft.UUCP (ed@unisoft.UUCP)
Subject: Re: Cat's Eyes
Newsgroups: net.misc
Date: 1984-04-22 11:51:07 PST

Botts Dots have also been called "lump bumps", but I think that's purely colloquial.

Ed Gould

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