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Province Makes Long-Awaited Road Paint Revision

Thursday, April 20, 2017

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British Columbia believes it has found a solution to a problem one government official said was the “No. 1 issue” he has heard about from the province’s citizens: faded traffic markings.

Plagued by vanishing lines on the center and sides of highways that have perplexed drivers for seven years, B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone said April 5 that crews will begin using thicker, more reflective paints—developed after a year’s tests—for yellow and white road lines.

Stringent Testing

The Transportation Ministry tested 18 new paints, covering each season of the year, and whittled those down to another four paints this past winter.

© iStock.com/BanksPhotos

British Columbia Transportation Minister Todd Stone said crews will begin using thicker, more reflective paints—developed after a year’s tests—for yellow and white road lines.

A “high build paint” that goes on extra thick showed the durability to survive tough winters, salt, chains and plows in the coastal and northern regions of the province. A “premium glass bead” paint will provide reflection better suited to the wet coastal climate of Vancouver Island and the southern mainland.

“These two formulations both stood up very, very well on the testing we did,” Stone says. “They were still very visible through all four seasons without re-application. In particular, the high build paint was extremely resilient. I won’t go so far to say it hadn’t faded at all, but it was still very prominent through all four seasons.”

History of Trouble

The headache for motorists began in 2010, when the Canadian government banned oil-based paints on roads in most provinces because of environmental protection concerns.

British Columbia opted for a lower-polluting alkyd paint for coastal and northern roads, and a water-based paint for interior highways.

But not even a year later, drivers were forced to squint in a fruitless attempt to spot lines that were barely there—if not gone entirely.

Road crews were forced to repaint the disappearing markings, and that meant extra expense. A normal year sees about 20,000 miles of highways getting freshly painted lines, at a cost of $11 million. The volume of paint needed—five times the normal amount—and frequent touch-ups had government officials scrambling to find a solution.

“Provinces all started looking around for a paint that had the same longevity and durability as the oil-based paint,” Stone said in May 2016. “And such a paint does not exist.”

Budget Boost

The new paints are 30 percent more expensive, forcing a $1 million bump in British Columbia’s 2017 line-painting budget.

British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure

British Columbia opted for a lower-polluting alkyd paint for coastal and northern roads, and a water-based paint for interior highways.

“We think the additional cost is going to be well worth it,” Stone says.

Positive Step

Ron Paull, a city councilor in Quesnel—a small city on the northern route of the province--has been campaigning to get British Columbia to switch to a longer-lasting, more visible paint.

"Very, very happy that they've found a durable paint, and even more happy that this more durable paint will have the glass beads," he said. "It's good news all around."

   

Tagged categories: Environmental Protection; Paint application; Paint Exposures; Roads/Highways; Striping

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