Why is Line Painting a Challenge on the Coquihalla?

Spring has sprung (sorta) across B.C., which means our maintenance contractors are out on our highways, shifting from winter maintenance to warmer weather activities like sweeping, paving, mowing and brushing. Our line marking contractors are also gearing up for a busy season, ready to hit the highway as soon as they can. Weather is definitely a factor in getting the job done, and one of the most challenging stretches, we’re sure you can imagine, is Highway 5 aka the Coquihalla.

Aaaaah, fresh paint.

One of the more frequent comments/questions we get in around this area is the visibility of line painting so we wanted to make sure you were in the loop on what we’re doing and some of the challenges.

Winter maintenance activities, such as snow plowing and sanding, cause significant seasonal “wear and tear” (aka erosion) on lane markings. As the Coquihalla is a high elevation pass, we often see snowfall into early May so the added maintenance work has an impact. As well, Federal environmental regulations have required us to move away from the resilient acrylic paints we’ve used in the past to paints with lower Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that are easier on the environment.

This should give you an idea of the annual weather variations we see on the Coquihalla.

This year, the line painting is scheduled in this area to be completed by May 15th. And, we will be testing a thicker application on sections of the Coquihalla to see if it improves the line durability. The ministry and its contractors continue to test new types of paint and pavement marking technologies to try and identify options that are both long lasting and environmentally safe.

Safety is the ministry’s highest priority, and clear lane markings are a key part of improving safety for the travelling public. Across the Province, our line painting contractors repaint over 30,000 kilometres of centre and lane lines every year, at a cost of over $10 million annually. Starting as soon as the conditions get drier (and thankfully, we’re enjoying relatively mild temperatures), the roads are swept and refreshing the lines begins.

If you’re looking for a bit more information about line painting, we’ve written a couple of articles on new technology (aka “golden oatmeal“) and painting trivia (why ARE centre lines painted yellow?) that you might find useful.

Have any other questions about the ministry and our work? We’d love to hear from you.

Page 1 of 11 comments on “Why is Line Painting a Challenge on the Coquihalla?”

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  1. The good visible oil based paint was banned by Ottawa in 2010. God forbid that an oil based paint be put on an oil based asphalt road! Just goes to show how brain damaged our Central government is and doesn’t seem to care about invisible road lines at night and when it rains.. when needed most for safety!!!! As for BC…. one wonders why road sweeping is so infrequent. Somebody must be making a s-load of money on highway maintenance contracts at our expense!!! Ottawa and Victoria are only useful to look after their own interests!!!!!!!

  2. I find it incredible that such concern over spring sweeping and road painting is such a concern on the coquihalla and other winter passes where May 15 is the target to complete the project. I live in Rossland and the lack of road lines is a problem every year. Often the roads aren’t swept until after the July 1st long weekend, and road painting still not done until after labour day weekend. This is not only on the pass from Nancy Greene lake to Rossland but also on the very busy hill 10 percent grade. Between Rossland and Trail and the U.S. Border. These are all far lower elevation than the Coquihalla. and heavily used with large amounts of truck traffic. Even the highway between Trail and Castlegar at 300 metres elevation is of yet not even started.

    Why are the highways in the Kootenays so neglected . I only have to drive into Washington state 10 km. south of Rossland to see all this work completed and far superior side reflectors. I drive often on highway 33 to Kelowna and notice that it is mostly cleaned to the Big White summit

    • Hi Cedric,

      Thank you for connecting with us here and our apologies for the late reply. Safety is our absolute top priority, not only on the Coquihalla, but across the province and with that in mind, we have forwarded your concerns onto the area manager. Barring a natural disaster which might impact a highway and temporarily redirect our maintenance crews, those same crews are out to clean up and repaint as soon as they are able to after winter has passed. We have heard comments before on the types of road reflectors used in Washington state and we wanted to let you know that wherever possible, we look for ways to improve road markings and install road side reflectors. Thanks again for taking the time to share your feedback and if you have any other questions or concerns, let us know.

  3. I just thinked about if a slightly dent for instance 5mm can be generated on the existing line marks and new line marks are painted on the dent lines.In that way the winter maintenance activities may just wear and tear the line paint slightly each year. However, one thing need to be confirm is how much of visibility will be affected.

  4. I drive the coquihalla from Kamloops to vancouver and back every week for work. I also agree that there is no reflective quality to the paint what so ever. Another of my major concers is the lack of marking on the sides of the road. In the dark and poor weather there is no reference at all to the edge of the road until your cruising over the rumble strip. But you have no reference as to where the lane edges are.

      • If safety is really your concern, then you are going in the wrong direction with the crappy paint you are now using. There is no reflective properties in it at all, and even on a rainy nite its hard to see let alone one that has some dirt on. At least put reflectors on (imbedded at road level) or find another paint supplier.
        There is no way you can tell me this paint is as good as the old stuff…….

        • Hi Don,
          Thanks for the comment.
          Reflectors in the high snow load area proved to be problematic, as they are either scrapped off by the plows or they are covered in sand, similar to your car after a winter trip, completely rendering them ineffective. As to the paint, the blog sums it up as it is a environmental concern and current contract does not allow the use of the old lead based paints. The paint still has to meet the reflectivity standards for application, glass beads are still added to the lines for reflective purposes.