New Pavement Paint for Lasting Brightness on Some BC Highways

We have a new line paint that is committed to stand up to BC winters…and we’re not done yet!

This spring, we’ll start using this environmentally friendly water-based paint that allows for thicker (and thus longer-lasting) application, on sections of key highways around BC. In addition to delivering durability, the formulation will be combined with newly designed-for-BC glass beads, which improve light reflection to boost the paint’s visibility.

The new paint will be specifically applied to sections of on some of our busiest roads including Highway 1, 3, 5, 16 and 97. On less-travelled routes that don’t get the wear and tear of winter maintenance, we’ll continue with the paint that we have been using, which performs well on many of our roads. The new glass beads will also be used with that paint, in key areas where reflectivity on wet nights is an issue.

The performance of both paints and paint/bead combinations will be monitored in a variety of areas to ensure the best formulation for different locales. At the same time, we’ll keep watching for other paints being developed that can take a pounding and stay bright.

How We Got Here

Our search for a peak performing paint has been ongoing since summer 2015, when we began testing line paints for improved wear and visibility. There were 18 types of paint, tried in three areas of the province with vastly different weather and traffic conditions – Highway 97 near Prince George, Highway 5 north of Halston Road near Kamloops, and Highway 7 near Maple Ridge. Various application methods were also put on trial. Then we piloted the selected paint on Highway 1, 3, 5 and 5 north, over the winter.

What We Need

Road markings must endure BC’s extreme weather on mountain passes, stay solid under scraping snowplow blades and studded tires, and withstand scouring as vehicle tires roll over winter traction grit. Chains, sometimes required on commercial vehicles, are also brutal on line paint – acting like small milling machines.

Our paints are a low volatile organic compound alkyd and a water-based formula. They meet federal regulations that in 2010, discontinued the use of oil-based paint.

The selected paint also had to be at a price that makes sense. The ministry occasionally applies other products like inlaid durable thermoplastics, which are installed on the road surface or slightly recessed into the pavement. However, these materials can be up to eight times the cost of paint. Another product used on extreme weather routes (like parts of Highway 16) is a methyl methacrylate resin, which is a two-part, epoxy-like plastic that disperses water quickly and has extra glass beads, but is also extremely expensive.

As part of our efforts to find the best paint solution, we shared research information and testing results with our neighbouring highways organizations in Alberta, Alaska, Washington and Idaho. These jurisdictions most closely match our geography and climate which are far harsher than most – if not all – other North American jurisdictions.

When you paint more than 30,000 kilometres of markings annually, you want those lines to last!

Did you know that we maintain more than 50,000 kilometres of roads and about 4,000 bridges/structures provincially? Check out more of
what we do.

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22 Responses to New Pavement Paint for Lasting Brightness on Some BC Highways

  1. Wref O'Hara on November 29, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Highway 1 in the Duncan area needs more visible lines. Driving from Chemainus south at night particularily when it is raining, is difficult when the lines are not very or even visible. Reflective paint is needed now, not some time in the future.

    • tranbceditor on December 11, 2017 at 11:35 am

      Hello Wref,

      Thank you for your comment. We sent your concern forward directly to the local area manager who informed us that line painting for Duncan, north Duncan and Duncan to Chemainus is scheduled for this spring. During these darker and rainier winter months, we encourage everyone to slow down, drive to conditions and ensure their vehicle is in good working condition.

  2. Judy Moss on November 29, 2017 at 11:31 am

    I live in the Cowichan Valley which has a lot of seniors and many very dark unlit areas. I am only 65 and I find that the lines on the roads are very hard to see at night. More needs to be done to improve the road markings in our area.
    I also find that the construction on the Malahat with the many orange pylons can sometimes be confusing on dark rainy nights.

    • tranbceditor on November 29, 2017 at 4:14 pm

      Hi Judy,

      Thank you for connecting with us here and sharing your concerns. We have sent your comment regarding visibility on Cowichan Valley and Malahat roads to the local area manager and the Malahat Safety Improvement project manager for review.

    • tranbceditor on December 6, 2017 at 10:30 am

      Hi Judy,

      We have shared your comments about the Cowichan Valley with the local area manager and will share back any information we hear back with you. The project manager for the Malahat Safety Project did inform us that we will be looking at installing enhancemed wet night visibility line markings in the future along the corridor following the completion of the current phase of safety improvements, as we will then have a very large continuous segment of the corridor with relatively new asphalt to install the lines on. Enhanced pavement markings are substantially more costly than standard road marking paint, and as such, we do not want to install them just to have them torn up by a reconstruction project the next year.

  3. Mary Nelson on November 29, 2017 at 10:14 am

    Highway 1 through Duncan gets a lot of traffic and it would be great to have the lines more visible at hight. Also on the cross roads of Tzouhalem/ Trunk. Thanks for your consideration.

    • tranbceditor on November 29, 2017 at 10:49 am

      Hi Mary and thank you for your suggestion. We are focussing our efforts with the newer paint on dark and wet stretches of road, just like the ones on the South Island and the Lower Mainland.

  4. K. Grant on November 29, 2017 at 9:43 am

    So glad to hear there is something being done to make the lines more visible at night and in rainy weather. It can’t happen soon enough!
    I’m sure it will prevent many avoidable accidents.

  5. Eric Wuolle on November 29, 2017 at 9:33 am

    I recall on a trip to Switzerland that highway marking lines were very visible in wet (rain, melting snow) conditions, in a climate very similar to B.C.’s. So, has anyone reached out to any European jurisdictions for their experiences with winter-resistant products ? The budgets for line maintenance in those countries are no doubt as stretched as ours, and their residents are just as concerned about highway safety (givern their higher speed limits !) and road surface quality.

    • tranbceditor on December 11, 2017 at 11:40 am

      Hi Eric,

      Thank you for your comment, we have shared it with our program area manager who informed us that we have been working with our partner jurisdictions of Alaska, Alberta, Washington State & Idaho to resolve the issues around painted line durability. Each of these Transportation agencies share materials research and we also share and use each other’s paint formulations. We have worked with other Canadian transportation agencies in Ontario, Saskatchewan & Quebec who follow the same Canadian materials regulations.

  6. Sharon on November 29, 2017 at 9:32 am

    During an extremely heavy downpour in the Spring, in daylight, the fog line on the Trans Canada Highway that I traveled in North Cowichan, between Beverly St. and Drinkwater Rd. was totally obliterated from view. This is dangerous! Also, nightime driving is made more dangerous because a lot of these lines are invisible. People in their forties are complaining about the lack of visibility on the Malahat in the dark. Surely to goodness safety is of the utmost concern and I would request that you use this reflective paint on the roads and highway on Vancouver Island. Thank you.

    • tranbceditor on November 29, 2017 at 10:51 am

      Hello Sharon.
      Thanks for sharing your concern here with us. We are focussing our efforts with the newer paint on dark and wet stretches of road, just like the ones on the South Island and the Lower Mainland.

  7. James on September 13, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    Finally…maybe we will be able to see the lines on those dark, rainy nights. Since the abolishment of lead based paint, it’s been a real struggle to see the lines in the glare of oncoming traffic.

    • tranbceditor on September 14, 2017 at 10:33 am

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your comment. We are also excited to find a solution too.

  8. Bill on September 13, 2017 at 1:01 am

    With labour being one of the highest costs in most industries, does it not make more sense to use more expensive paint that last longer in all areas and reduce labour costs? PS: Highway 19 needs some major crosswalk painting done.

    • tranbceditor on September 14, 2017 at 10:35 am

      Hi Bill,

      We’ve sent your comment forward to the folks in charge of our line painting program for some feedback on your suggestion. Is there somewhere on Highway 19 specifically you are concerned about? We will send forward for follow up.

  9. Doug Cross on April 5, 2017 at 8:21 am

    I would like more information on the application process please.

    • tranbceditor on April 11, 2017 at 11:30 am

      Hi Doug,

      The application process uses basically the same technology and equipment as before. Our contractors will need to be extra diligent with monitoring air temperature and humidity during application as the heavier application rates will need +10C and rising temperatures with low humidity for optimal effectiveness. In some areas we may need additional traffic control to avoid line smearing by traffic. The new bead is one specially designed for BC and the the heavier application of paint. It has additional beads that are larger in order to give good initial retro reflectivity with the thicker paints. Hope that this helps!

  10. neil hudson on April 5, 2017 at 7:47 am

    This has been needed for a long time. I worked plowing snow on the highways around Golden and during a blinding snowstorm or a thick fog bank–or both!–I sure would have appreciated the ability to see the centre line or the fog line—I’m sure other drivers would also. In our area the line painting crew would show up in the early spring and by November you could see the lines already getting worn

  11. Nick Thomas on April 4, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    So it only took 5 years to get round to testing improved paint when that has been the number one item raised by the public with the Minister. At least he managed to get round to implementing the roll out (just) before the election.

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