MERRITT, B.C. – In numerous communities around the globe, if the weather does not suit your liking, the locals will tell you to wait a few minutes and it will all change.
Not having to wait long for the sun to come out is generally viewed as a positive change, but constant change in the climate can have a negative effect on the highway system. While much attention is paid to the weathering effect of asphalt and the cracks, dips and holes stretching across the roadways, not as much attention is paid to the lane lines marking the highway network.
“Heavy traffic and frequent performance of maintenance on highways – like the Coquihalla Highway – will cause paint to fade more quickly,” explained Lisanne Bowness, spokesperson for the B.C. Transportation Ministry.
As a result, work began in September on the installation of new high-visibility thermoplastic lane lines on two sections of the Coquihalla Highway.
The thermoplastic lane lines will be installed along 18 km of the Coquihalla Highway from Larson Hill to Juliet Bridge, as well as a three-kilometre stretch from Zopkios Rest Area to Great Bear Snowshed.
“This particular area has extreme weather conditions and the weather contributes to fading of standard paint markings,” Bowness told Truck West. “Also, salt and sand contribute to the scraping of paint lines and remove them from the surface.”
Thermoplastic is applied in liquid form, and sets into a highly reflective, hardened state – with glass beads imbedded in the plastic. This product has a higher level of durability and a longer lifecycle than traditional painted lines.
Thermoplastic markings are expected to last four years or longer on this part of the Coquihalla Highway, which sees extreme snow and ice conditions and requires a high use of sand. Standard painted lines on this stretch of highway only last about a year.
Despite the different physical properties of thermoplastic lane lines, as opposed to standard paint lines, drivers should feel no difference under the wheels of a vehicle.
“The traction is not any different,” said Bowness. “Visually, it has a profile look because the pattern in the surface has a reflective look, but there is no difference when driving over it.”
As well as providing increased longevity over traditional lane marking methods, the thermoplastic lane lines are also an added safety measure.
The ministry has carried out the installation project in partnership with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.
“This innovative product has a high visibility factor, especially at night and when it’s raining,” said Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon.
“Installing this reflective material will help drivers see the lanes more clearly, improving safety along this stretch of roadway.”
The Coquihalla Highway project is not the first time thermoplastic lane lines have been utilized along the B.C. highway network. Thermoplastic markers have also been installed along a stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway near Malahat, B.C. and along the Sea-to-Sky Highway.
Despite the durability, longevity and reflective nature of the thermoplastic lines, it is unlikely the province will see widespread use of the new markers, due to the premium of cost over paint lines.
Even with a minimal installation time of a few weeks, the Coquihalla Highway project contract value was listed at $276,000.
“The product will be monitored to see how it performs before implementing further works,” noted Bowness. “There is a significant higher cost difference in application of thermoplastic products. It would not be practical to apply thermoplastic to all the highway system, but can be used in isolated problem areas.”