City should up its road-painting game, report finds

It's time for the city to spend millions of dollars to upgrade the equipment it uses to paint lines and other markers on roads, according to a staff report.

Report recommends Ottawa double its road-painting fleet — from 1 to 2

The City of Ottawa has been using a single 18-year-old truck to paint lines on Ottawa's roads. Even though a new truck has replaced it, the city will continue to use the old truck so it has a fleet of two. (City of Ottawa)


  • On June 5, 2019, the transportation committee approved the plan to make road markings more durable.

It's time for the city to spend millions of dollars to upgrade the equipment it uses to paint lines and other markers on roads, according to a staff report.

The report outlines the need for new equipment to use a more permanent thermoplastic paint, to dry road surfaces to allow for work on rainy days, and scour off outdated markings.

The city currently has one truck to paint 5,500 kilometres of road and 6,500 intersections every year, the report adds.

Coun. Jeff Leiper, vice-chair of the transportation committee, said he was surprised the city only has one vehicle to paint lines.

"We are one of the world's biggest municipalities and I don't think anybody can begrudge the city if it needs to have two trucks working instead of just one," Leiper said.

The city has been using an environmentally friendly, low-volatile organic compound paint since the federal government passed regulations in 2012. That paint doesn't last a full year on Ottawa's roads.

The City of Ottawa is looking to buy a new truck that can lay down lines that will last much longer. It is expected to cost $1.1 million and will take until early 2020 to be delivered. (City of Ottawa)

The report recommends using more durable paint on major arterial and collector roads for centre lines and lane markings. Other markings and minor streets would not get the more permanent paint.

The upgrades would add $3.3 million to the operating budget and require the purchase of a $1.1-million truck to apply the paint, as well as $45,000 pick-up truck, according to the report. There would be approximately five employees assigned to the equipment.

25 work shifts lost to wet streets

Leiper said residents have contacted him with safety concerns about faded bicycle markings on Wellington Street and unclear markings for bus lanes along Scott Street taking too long to be fixed.

Some councillors say they regularly get complaints about faded paint on Ottawa streets. (Laura Osman/CBC)

"We have such a short period of time in this city because of the weather, because of the snow, in which to make sure that our line markings are properly in place," he said.

"When it takes until September, October or even November before the line markings go back in, I think most residents find that unacceptable."

The report also suggested the city purchase an $80,000 pavement marking dryer to allow road painting to continue in wet weather. In 2017, city road crews lost 25 of 70 work shifts due to rain events, the report noted.

Costs of specialized markings

The report attributes a significant increase in road markings to more bicycle-related markings, traffic-calming measures, roundabouts and the overall increase in the size of the road network.

It outlines about $700,000 in increased operating costs, $245,000 in capital costs and about three staff to address the increased demand for stencils and other road markings.

The city is recommending more money for the application of thermoplastic markings for some types of road markers. They are more expensive than paint. (Shutterstock)

Part of that sum is a pavement marking "eradicator," which the report said would be primarily for removing old markers so new markers can be put down.

The transportation committee will receive the report at its meeting May 1.

What parts of Ottawa most desperately need a paint job?


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