New Pavement Paint for Lasting Brightness on Some BC Highways

line painting on bc highways

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

In 2017, we started 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 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.

Page 1 of 55 comments on “New Pavement Paint for Lasting Brightness on Some BC Highways”

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  1. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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!

  2. 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

  3. 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.