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 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.

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Page 1 of 52 comments on “The Evolving Story of Brighter, More Durable Line Painting”

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  1. The problem with the poor quality of our highway lines could be solved by twice a year painting. And that should include gore lines and cross hatch and highway Pedestrian crosswalk and stop lines. And if we really wanted to make our lines more visible do like they do on European roads and increase the width of the various lines.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Harry. Our approach continues to evolve as we work to improve visibility and durability with BC’s challenging terrain and weather.

  2. Curious, there must be a camera and computer controlled sprayer on a pivoting arm … so that the sprayer, when going over existing lines knows exactly where to spray, when to stop to match the existing dashed lines etc. Is that so?

    • Hi Paul.

      Yes, sprayers can be camera and computer controlled, but there may be variations. There is a person observing to ensure that the work is being done correctly and to contract specifications. For example, a centre “dash line” is four metres long and the paint must be within .1 metres of that measurement. Thanks for your question and connecting with us.

  3. A couple questions: what speed are your trucks painting at? Here in Ontario due to a major accident and death our research branch was attempting to solve this problem by new methods such as a new type of material that dries immediately,robotics, for accuracy and speed closer to the limit as speed differential appears to be the major traffic proble. Unfortunately thanks to privatization this all went by the wayside thanks to the Conservative Govt of Mike Harris. No private contractors have stepped up to the platesince this happened in 1998.

    • Hello Beagan.

      Thanks for connecting with us here. In BC, paint trucks travel about 10 km/h. The trucks have large crash attenuators and operate on the road with pilot vehicles front and back, for safety. The paint is usually dry within five minutes or less. The pilot vehicle following the paint truck waits until the line is dry before moving forward.

      Water-based paint takes longer to dry. Acetone-based paints take less time.

  4. I am wondering when you will be painting Silver Star Road. This road was painted last summer and i would say 85% of the lines are gone. The new paint used has not held up to weather. I have seen near misses several times because of the lack of lines. Night time is the worst or when the road is wet.

    • Hi Debbie, thanks for reaching out. We have forwarded your question along to local staff working in your area, and will relay any information they reply to you here, please stay tuned.

    • H again, Debbie. We heard back from operations in your area who say that Silver Star Road is scheduled to be painted this year. They don’t yet have a clear timeline for that, but have called into the contractor to inquire.

  5. It would probably be wise to also contact the Department of Transportation in North Dakota and learn how the do theirs. I’m a Canadian truck driver that also travels into the USA and notice the infrastructure differences between the places I drive.
    On the main highways in North Dakota (interstates), the lines are reflective and imbedded right in to the roadways with a rough durable texture of sorts. The lines painted are also outlined in Black so as the pavement ages and becomes almost greyish white, the lines are still perfectly visible especially at night.
    BCs age old technology of the transparent plastic reflector still reins supreme when sunken below the pavement surface level in special grooves so the tires, chains and snow plow shovels don’t hit them

    Glowing paint lines would definitely work well but again you’d have to find a method of durability such as the USA style embedding lines into the pavement. These lanes would be completely closed to traffic until set AND cured completely

  6. We frequently see “inexpiably left the road” in accident reports. Truth is, road could not be seen due the poor lineage and oncoming LED headlights. Frogs before people.

  7. I just drove from Sparwood to Cranbrook BC in the rain. Our paint has absolutely zero reflective quality to it. Ad in the fact that many vehicles have super bright lights and you literally cant see the road. Many wouldn’t even dim their lights because when you do it’s a black slate. We’ve got people replacing their stock lights with the brighter LEDs without adjusting them after. Same with pickups. They jack them up but don’t adjust their lights. The paint being used is inadequate. No more excuses. Lives are going to be lost. What is going to be done about this lousy paint and these ultra bright lights?

    • Hello, Evan – thanks for your comment. Lighting levels and light types are determined by the federal department of Transportation, so we encourage you to consider sharing your concerns with them directly. We are still working to find the ideal applications and compounds of federally approved paint for durability and reflectivity on our roads, as described in this blog. We have shared your concern with our staff in the area.

  8. McKenzie Avenue, Victoria BC:
    1. The exit onto Highway One has no visible lines at night. It is impossible for a driver to determine which lane they are in as cars merge from McKenzie onto Highway One. There are 3 lanes at one point, and this is dangerous.
    2. McKenzie Avenue, Victoria BC between Carey Road and the exit onto the Pat Bay Highway: The pavement is in such poor shape that, even if lines are repainted, they will not last or be visible for long.

    If there is an accident because of this, are the drivers at fault, or is the fault shared with the people responsible for keeping this road driveable?

    • Good morning, Sharon

      Thanks for your comment. Line markings are scheduled twice annually on the Trans-Canada highway and the reflectivity rating for the paint is the same as it is across the province. We continue to work with different applications of low VOC paint as regulated by the federal government (more on that here:

      McKenzie is on our priority list for resurfacing but if you notice any potholes that cause you concern, we ask that you share that concern directly with our maintenance contractor (Emcon) at 1-866-353-3136.

      We hope this is helpful.

  9. horseshoe Bay to Pemberton needs to be done every 6 months at a minimum if the current paint product is all you have access to. in anything other than dry daytime conditions the road lines simply do not exist.

  10. I live on Vancouver Island and there are times where the painted lines at night in the rain just disappear. In some cases like in places like Victoria, Langford, and parts of Duncan its not as big of a problem because the speed limit gets cut down to a crawl, but on the Pat Bay highway, the Malahat, hell all of the Trans Canada its down right terrifying at times. I find even on parts of the well lit 99/1 in North and West Vancouver can be super sketchy at night in the rain as well, though no where near as bad as on the island.

  11. I live in Chilliwack and every morning through the weekend I commute to Hope for work. The lack of painting from Harrison to Chilliwack in both ways is pretty dangerous. I tend to drive slower than 100 in that area but unfortunately others drivers rush through lanes in tha zone. I would like to see more police around it. It’s quite scary!

    • Thanks for connecting with us, Claudia. While we aren’t responsible for speed enforcement (that’s the BC RCMP). Our line marking program is active throughout the summer and into the early fall, so it may be getting a refresh over the coming month or two. I will share your concern with our staff in the area for their information. Thanks again. Safe travels.

  12. So we have traded safety for environmental concerns! Any one who drives the sea to sky in winter at night know how terrifying it can be. I say go back to alkyd paints and save lives!

  13. Repave most sections of hwy 99, it’s so bumpy and car drifts in right lane. Pave it like interstate 5. Also highway 1 in west van’s surface is so rough. Install ramp meters to reduce traffic like interstates.

  14. the paint that is used now is not reflective and is down fight dangerous when it`s dark and raining. you can say you understand the problem all you want but clearly you don`t drive these hiways at night when it`s raining. if you did drive these roads these lines would be visible .

  15. I think the durability is the biggest issue with the new paints. I’ve seen lines on roadways in Kamloops (both Lorne St. and Valleyview Dr.) disappear within months of being painted.

  16. Gee is that what a paint truck looks like?
    Sure like to see one on Mayne Island as we have no streetlights very narrow roads and very few lines down the middle. Often people get the impression that you can just drive down the middle of the road. Last time I saw a paint truck they put the line down and the next week the pavers paved over it.

    • Hi PJ – thanks for taking the time to share your concern with us here. We encourage you to share your concerns directly with our staff in your area to determine when line marking is scheduled on Mayne Island.

      Saanich Area
      240 – 4460 Chatterton Way
      Victoria, BC V8X 5J2

      Hours of Operation:
      8:30 am to noon
      1 pm to 4:30 pm
      Monday to Friday

  17. Have noticed the centre-line markings on Hwy. 33 between Big White Rd back to Kelowna are non-existent. I understand the need for environmental protection and fully support that, however road safety is extremely important. I have brought this attention to the local Okanagan contact as well via phone call. I would recommend we re-evaluate how we maintain our highways in terms of road markings and snow maintenance. If the paint isn’t even lasting a season, surely other best practices can be used to ensure safe transportation corridors. Maybe cat eyes?


    • Thanks for your comment and for letting us know that you have reached out to our local district staff as well. Unfortunately, cats eye reflectors don’t stand up to snow and plow activities very well but we are looking into other ways to extend the line markings despite new legislation.

  18. I think this is an important topic and one that should be fixed. With all our technology and knowledge, we can’t fix this and have a system that works?

    When it is dark and raining it is very difficult and almost impossible to see the roads. This is especially true on a two lane highway with the headlights of oncoming traffic coming at you. Sometimes the white line hasn’t even been painted and only the yellow lines have been. The white lines help us see where the road is!

    Asking us to slow down is responsible but not enough. Let’s find a system that works and get it done.

    I’m am tired of being scared to death and putting my life and the lives of my loved ones in jeopardy every time I drive in the rain at night.

    • Thanks for your comment, Sonja. Our ministry staff responsible are trying many approaches to determine which will work best in our unique environment. We have shared your comment forward for their review.

  19. I live on Salt Spring Island. I have had a continuing battle over the past years in order to get the lines painted on a regular basis i.e. Annually at least. The island is dark ( which is great) but we have bendy, narrow roads which are difficult to drive on in the winter months especially when it is wet. There is a misconception that the lines are needed only to keep traffic on the right side of the road whereas in fact we need the lines to actually see where the road is going! It is especially helpful when the white edge lines are painted. In Ganges, the lane lines last a few months before careless traffic wears them away. ( Mid road arrows/lanes for example) . Nothing is ever done to repaint them until the whole Island is scheduled to be fixed.
    When I travel to other parts of the CRD ( Metchosin for example) The lines are always clear. It seems to me that a half hour ferry trip (coffee break?) is what prevents the paint truck coming here more often. The lack of lines is a hazard, it must fall under some kind of health and safety regulations and if an accident is caused by the lack of renovation of these lines someone must be responsible.
    As for cats eyes in the centre I laugh when snow ploughs are deemed as a deterrent seeing as the coastal regions rarely (with exceptions) get snow. Certainly no more than the UK where there are always cats eyes. It would also be more helpful if you painted STOP lines at EVERY Junction but I gather the road has to be a certain width. Who made that one up I wonder.

    Finally, the lines would be more useful and permanent if you used the hot /glass bead filled line “Paint” which would last for years.
    Try driving around salt Spring in the winter and you will see just how dangerous it is. I hope that you can respond positively to this. Many thanks

    • Hello Aubrey and thanks for your comment. We shared your concerns with our local area staff who let us know that we rotate our painting crews around the Gulf Islands. Salt Spring was painted last year, and so we do not expect any line marking to occur there this summer. Currently, the ministry only installs stimsonites (or cat-eye reflectors) on numbered highways. We do however, include glass beads in all of our centre line paint, which aids in reflection. Winter in this corner of the province means rain and rain can reduce visibility, so we ask all drivers to slow down during inclement weather. We hope that this information is helpful. If you would like to discuss this further with ministry staff, we encourage you to reach out the local area manager in our Saanich area office. Here’s the contact information for that location:

      Saanich Area
      240 – 4460 Chatterton Way
      Victoria, BC V8X 5J2

      Hours of Operation:
      8:30 am to noon
      1 pm to 4:30 pm
      Monday to Friday

  20. Who is responsible for line painting in the city of Richmond, southbound in the left turn lane at the intersection of Sea Island Way and Garden City Road?

    There’s a set of dotted white lines in that left turn lane that I feel should not be there. It is not a double left turn lane but I see many people using it as such which is a safety issue.

  21. Our lines in the south caribou are mostly gone now.Too much salt has wiped out the diluted paint that is used nowadays.whats worse environmental unfriendly paint for lines or environmentally unfriendly salt

    • Hello KG,

      Thank you for connecting with us here. 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. We continue to work on ways to stay environmentally friendly while keeping line markings and the environment safe.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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!