It always looks like it just rained...
October 29, 2010 8:59 PM   Subscribe

Why are the roads so shiny in Las Vegas, like they're a polished surface? And, as a corollary, why is the paint on the street barely visible throughout town?

Is it the cumulative effect of thousands of particularly abrasive sand grains in tire treads?
posted by speedgraphic to Grab Bag (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The extreme summer heat melts the rubber in car tires, which covers and occludes the paint layer.
posted by squid patrol at 9:25 PM on October 29, 2010

There's also a worldwide road paint shortage. Maybe they just haven't been able to repaint recently.
posted by clorox at 10:47 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

The story I've been told about the road surfaces has to do with the melting point of asphalt. Because of the high expected operating temperatures and the amount of traffic in the desert in Las Vegas, they have to build the roads with (IIRC, I am not a structural engineer) a great deal more oil in the mix, which results in shinier roads, and slipperier conditions on the rare occasions it rains.

This may be utterly inaccurate, but it is my best understanding.

I bet they use the exact same kind of paint, and it just shows up worse against the shiny pale surface.
posted by contrarian at 5:49 AM on October 30, 2010

Paint is invisible because it has worn away and someone has been too cheap to repaint it.

The road is shiny because there are no hard freezes in Las Vegas, so the roads last forever and do abrade away. It also depends on the kind of aggregate (rocks) they used in the asphalt. Harder rocks will wear longer and get shinier, quite like terrazzo.

Unless you are talking about the shiny mirage like effect? That's caused by the heat right at the road's surface changing the density of the air enough that it's angle of refraction changes, and the sunlight looks almost exactly like it is reflecting off of water. Because the refraction change is why water looks like it does.
posted by gjc at 9:59 AM on October 30, 2010

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