Smooth Move: 3 Common Ways to Resurface B.C. Highways

resurfacing bc highways
If you’ve ever slowly cruised by paving projects in your community, you’ve probably noticed there are different types of paving processes. Turns out, there’s more than one method our contractors use depending on the amount of TLC required. The majority of projects we work on aren’t straight from scratch paving. By “straight from scratch”, we mean the kind of paving where we start with a gravel road instead of an existing paved road.

Instead, most of the paving projects in B.C. focus on rehabilitation by using resurfacing methods on existing asphalt. To help you identify which method of pavement rehabilitation you’re seeing, we’ve put together a list of the three main methods that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure uses: Overlay, Hot-in-Place and Mill and Fill.

The Overlay Process in Action

1. Overlay

Overlay can be used when surface defects have not opened or penetrated far into the existing pavement structure. In other words, if the road is in pretty decent shape and we can repair existing cracks without grinding, the overlay can serve to increase the structural integrity of the highway. For this method, we add a fresh layer of asphalt to restore structural strength without having the underlying pavement stresses working themselves back into the new surface. The end result is a road that has a better life cycle than the Mill and Fill process (“life cycle” is how long the asphalt lasts before repairs/resurfacing are required).

How does it affect your drive? Overlay takes the shortest time frame to complete compared to the Hot-in-Place and Mill and Fill methods.

Hot-in-Place Recycling as it happens

2. Hot-in-Place Resurfacing

If the existing asphalt pavement still has some “life in it” (minimal surface cracks and the asphalt binder is soft enough), we can use specialized “train-like” equipment to do the work. First, the asphalt is heated, then re-processed on the spot with new asphalt mix (usually 20%) and finally placed where the existing asphalt was just removed; thus, why we call it “Hot-in-Place Resurfacing”. The bonus of this method is that it rehabilitates the pavement surface in one fell swoop, and with one super machine, saving natural resources and lowering emissions and costs!

How does it affect your drive? This method is quick and cost effective. Once the asphalt is compacted and cooled, the road is immediately ready for your driving pleasure.

Traditional Mill and Fill

3. Mill and Fill

We use this method when the pavement surface has deteriorated to the point where it cannot be maintained because cracks, stresses and structural defects have made their way below the surface. This generally means the underlying asphalt layers are still strong and sound to bear vehicle loads. Our paving contractors start by grinding the damaged asphalt – milling (taking off) the affected areas, and then laying down and compacting fresh asphalt to cool. If you’re keen on recycling, it’s interesting to know the leftover ground or milled asphalt is recycled into the new layer being replaced or used on a side or secondary road for resurfacing.

This method helps extend the asphalt surface life cycle. For example, Hot-in-Place lasts an average of 8 to 12 years, while Mill and Fill and Overlay projects can last approximately 15 to 18 years. Mill and Fill and Hot-in-Place Recycling projects typically do not require supplementary work found in Overlay projects, which could include roadside barrier improvements and gravel shouldering work.

How does it affect your drive? You may have spotted a stage of this process if you’ve ever driven over pavement after it’s been milled and before it’s been filled. Mill and Fill can take a bit longer than some of our other methods, but once the new asphalt is in place, it can be driven on in a matter of hours because the asphalt has been compacted and cools quickly.

If you spot flaggers working at any construction, be sure to slow down for them and check out what our paving contractors are up to.
Now you can use your new knowledge about paving methods for your next round of roadside trivia!

If you find this interesting, you may like:  The Pothole Hunters

8 comments on “Smooth Move: 3 Common Ways to Resurface B.C. Highways”

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  1. Hi there,

    Any mill and fill projects slated for 2020 on vancouver island?? Cobble hill Rd is a disaster……….
    thanks

    Reply
  2. Are they paving in glade b.c would like labelle rd in glade paved in fact would just like a rd they will not maintain this rd or do any snow removal in winter there are 3 residents on this on this rd. Now

    Reply
    • Good afternoon Arnold,

      The ministry is paving Glade area roads, but Labelle Road is classified as an 8F, so you are correct in that there is no maintenance. It is likely classed an 8F because the road was not brought up to our standards during subdivision. As it is the responsibility of the developers to bring roads up to standard before the ministry takes them on, the district would not be in a position to upgrade the road. We are also prioritizing our existing hard surface roads for rehab before we add more hard surface to our inventory.

      We would consider bringing it into our inventory for maintenance if the residents brought it up to or proved it met ministry standards but we would likely still not pave it.

      We hope that this information is helpful. Here is the ministry area office contact info for your reference:

      Grand Forks Area
      7290 2nd Street
      Box 850
      Grand Forks, BC V0H 1H0
      Telephone: 250 442-4384
      Fax: 250 442-4317

      Reply
    • Hi there J Dearden – we reached out to the project manager and they let us know that work on Hwy 97C was completed yesterday and Tunkwa Lake Road will be completed by this Friday. Hope that this helps – thanks for connecting with us here!

      Reply
  3. Maintenance of highways is very important . You have explained in a very detail manner how to smooth the road. Nice article.!!

    Reply