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Paving the Way for Progress

MTO has an obligation to continuously work to improve the safety of Ontario's roadways. The Ministry's proactive approach towards developing new and better pavement marking materials reflects this primary objective. Pavement markings, such as centerlines, lane lines and edge lines, aid the motorist in safely navigating the roadway, and are essential to road safety. The development of pavement marking materials lies under the jurisdiction of the Maintenance and Materials Engineering and Research offices.

The Ministry has had test sites of different pavement marking formulations and glass beads for over thirty years, to monitor and assess their wear, visibility, and retro reflectivity. Glass beads cause the markings to be retro reflective, which means light from the vehicle's headlights entering the glass beads are reflected back to the driver's eyes. Over the years, many alterations have been made concerning the type, quality and the manner in which the markings are applied. MTO's latest test deck in the Eastern Region on Highway 401 Eastbound features many such changes. Pavement marking manufacturers from around the world supply a variety of materials for this site, to have their product evaluated and approved for use on provincial highways.

In 2003, over 500 markings of paint, two-component material, thermoplastic and tape were applied to the East 401 test deck. In addition to testing material performance, new pavement marking application technologies were tested at this location. Traditional materials are applied by paint spray equipment, and the resulting markings are relatively flat. Under wet conditions they provide negligible retro reflectivity. In an effort to improve wet retro reflectivity, textured markings are currently being tested and evaluated. These markings require different application techniques, for instance, a die that produces a stamped pattern of material, or the material is flung onto the roadway surface to create "hills" for the water to pond between. This allows headlight beams to reflect back from a hill that is not covered by water.

In another effort to improve wet retro reflectivity, a trial of applying conventional water borne paint on a pavement rumble strip has been initiated. As a result of the application to this textured surface, a profile marking is produced. Preliminary results indicate that the wet retro reflectivity of the rumble strip markings is significantly better than conventional flat markings.

Several other pavement marking test sites are located in the Eastern Region. Durable water paint is being tested on 2 different sites: Highway 60, West of Renfrew and on Highway 37, South of Tweed. This paint is applied at twice the thickness of regular water borne paint and uses a bigger glass bead. These markings did not require re-striping for three years - generally, water borne paint markings are re-striped on an annual basis. The retro reflectivity was good and the wear was exceptionally low during this period. As a matter of fact, the Highway 60 Eastbound edge line retro reflectance readings were a hundred units higher than some of the adjacent two-week-old regular water borne paint markings.

The Ministry is always looking for solutions concerning the treatment and marking of different pavement surfaces. Traditional marking material does not perform well on surface treated pavements - the paint wears off of the coarse pavement surface over a very short period of time. New spray thermoplastic materials and a new application method are being evaluated on another section of Highway 28 east of Bancroft. The material is applied by a special pavement marking striper at 232C, and at a thickness of 1.5 or 2.5 mm. additionally, products from two different manufacturers and two different bead manufacturers are being tested. The results to date indicate that there is a significant improvement in the wear and daytime appearance of the markings over materials used in the past. Retro reflectivity has improved but there is still opportunity for greater advancement.