The Evolving Story of Brighter, More Durable Line Painting

A line marking machine paints a stretch of highway in BC.
Line painting in BC has been evolving over the last decade since oil-based paints were discontinued by federal regulations in 2010, due to concerns around the environment and worker exposure to volatile organic compounds.

We hear a lot of opinions about those old paints, and we understand the nostalgia. However, the fact remains that they’re no longer available to us. So, we’ve been coming up with solutions and honing our approach, to help you stay safely within the lines.

Pavement marking now takes place throughout the province at a higher standard than previously. In 2019, new line painting service agreements came into effect, improving on previous contracts, and require:

  • 20% more lines painted annually throughout the province;
  • larger glass beads in areas for increased reflectivity and visibility at night, and thicker paint for longer-lasting pavement marking;
  • second-coat application in areas that experience premature wear; and
  • enhanced contractor monitoring and auditing to maintain consistent performance.

Over the years, we’ve been testing and refining paint formulas – using low volatile organic compound alkyd and water-based formulas, and trying a variety of reflective glass beads that are put down with the paint.  We want the combination that gives us excellent visibility in darkness and low light, with durability, to help motorists to travel where they need to be on the highway. We’ve tested formulations in different climate settings where they perform differently.

Test lines of paint on a BC highway.
Line paint testing

Finding that “sweet spot” of brightness and durability is a challenge. BC’s mountainous terrain and winter weather is tough on pavement markings. The equipment we use to clear roads of ice and snow, and traction devices like studded tires and tire chains, wear away at line paint. Throw in winter abrasive and salt road treatments, and you’ve got grit that scours pavements markings, when vehicles roll over it.

Alberta, Alaska, Washington and Idaho have similar winters and high terrain, to us, so we all continue to share our findings.

Each year in BC, we paint more than 20,000 kilometres of highways and provincially owned side roads. Typically, the line painting season starts in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island in spring, due to milder conditions there. Pavement marking then takes place in the rest of the province, with schedules that are subject to change due to weather.

Lafrentz Road Marking is the contractor for BC’s five pavement marking service areas: Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland, Thompson-Cariboo, Okanagan-Kootenay and the North. Each area service agreement has a five-year term (to 2023) and includes an optional two-year extension.

** Please slow down, obey all traffic control personnel and signage, and use caution when driving through areas where crews are marking pavement. **

More blogs about line painting, that you might find interesting:

Do you have questions about our pavement marking?  Ask us below.

Page 1 of 13 comments on “The Evolving Story of Brighter, More Durable Line Painting”

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  1. Is there a higher cost associated with using the square reflectors as opposed to painted lines? In pretty much every city ie Richmond/Surrey/Delta/Burnaby etc, the painted lines work fine during dry weather but as soon as its rainy, you can barely make out the lines on the road.

    I understand that snow plows tend to remove these reflectors from the roadway but what if the asphalt was indented to accommodate the reflector and prevent it from being removed.

    I just feel that those reflectors would work a lot better. I’ve been on roads which have employed the reflectors and even during heavy rain, they are completely visible and make it so much safer/easier to navigate the roadways.

    • Good morning Proman,

      Yes, these reflectors do cost more (and recessing the pavement to receive the reflectors is also costly, but the ministry does use them as and when they are needed. Within the cities of Richmond, Delta, Burnaby, etc., this work would be completed by the city or town itself and we encourage you to reach out to them with your concerns.

  2. When will the lines be painted between Invermere and Radium Hot Springs as a lot of Tourists are passing where ever they want and it has become very unsafe.

    • Hi Nancy – thanks for your question. We have sent it to our local area staff for review and will let you know what we hear back.

  3. Good to see this post on such an important aspect of our highway safety. Anyone who drives between Chilliwack and Hope in the winter at night in the rain, wishes the paint would last a little longer and glow a little brighter! By about end January every year, much of the middle line markings are worn away.
    Comments X 2
    (1) How about stamping rumble strips into each broken white line between lanes. New paint would flow into the grooves and remain visible but last much longer due to less physical contact with tires plus there’s the benefit of a tire noise warning if straying out of your lane.
    (2) Use luminous paint in the above mentioned rumble strip/broke white lines.

    • Great suggestion, Jerry! While rumble strips are not suitable in all locations, and do not quite fit the shape of our lines, we are currently trialing a durable inlaid method that uses a similar concept (linear grooves filled with durable paints) to see if this is a cost effective means of increasing the longevity and reflectivity of the lines.

  4. With vehicles now having systems that rely on good line markings (lane-keep assist and autonomous driving), having the higher low-light visibility is important.

    I’ll take to new low-VOC formula over oil anyday!