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Pavement Management

The City plans for the maintenance and repair of roadways to optimize road pavement conditions across Barrie. The City’s pavement assets have a replacement cost of over $660 Million.

To look after this valuable asset portfolio, the City employs a range of programs and strategies: from regular road patrols ensuring compliance with Provincial minimum maintenance standards to full reconstruction projects.

The Layers of a Road

Roads are constructed in multiple layers, each placed in several courses. The thickness and requirements of each layer and the total number of layers is dependent on factors such as weather, traffic volumes, and the native subgrade material on which the road is built. In general, Barrie's roads are constructed in 3 layers:

Wearing surface

The wearing surface of most roads in Barrie is asphalt, however roads can have a concrete surface.  Asphalt is typically placed in multiple layers, referred to as binder course (bottom layer) and surface course asphalt (top layer).

The wearing course, generally asphalt, acts as a “cap” on top of the pavement structure. The asphalt is used to not only provide a smooth riding surface for vehicles but also to prevent excessive amounts of water from entering into the pavement structure.

Aggregate base

Placed in multiple layers, the aggregate base normally has larger sized granular material on the bottom and granular material with smaller particle sizes on top.  This material is considered “free-draining” material, which means that it allows water to permeate through the layers and absorb into the subgrade.


Subgrade is typically naturally occurring material or may be imported fill on which the road is built.

Note: the City also owns other infrastructure below the road such as sanitary and storm sewers and watermains.

All layers act together and allow water to move from one layer to another until it reaches the subgrade where it's absorbed. Preservation activities completed on roads early in their life prevent water from seeping into the pavement structure through cracks and holes in the wearing surface. By taking care of the asphalt the City maintains the semi-impervious “cap” on the road.

How Roads Deteriorate

Many defects and road deterioration can be caused by excessive and continual water seepage into a pavement structure. When water is allowed to move through the asphalt and into the aggregate base, it weakens the structural integrity of the road and the normally harmless traffic will cause damage to the road over time.

The Freeze-Thaw Cycle

Because Canada experiences cold and warm seasons, Barrie's roads are exposed to freezing and thawing cycles. When water seeps through the cracks of the asphalt and freezes, the water expands and causes new cracks to form and the already existing cracks to become larger.

Pavement Renewal Strategies

In between a road’s initial construction and when it needs full replacement (reconstruction), there are several options that can reduce the total amount needed to be spent on roads to keep them in good condition and meet desired levels of service. Preservation strategies, used earlier in the life of pavement when the road is still in good condition, are less expensive and faster to complete compared to strategies applied later in the life of the pavement, when the road has deteriorated more.

Early-life Pavement Preservation Techniques

These include techniques such as reclamite, micro surfacing, slurry sealing and fog sealing to extend the life of pavement surface assets that are in the early stages of deterioration. Pavement preservation techniques typically involve application of thin, bituminous-based products to existing pavement. They differ from resurfacing techniques because they:

  • do not involve the removal of existing surface material.
  • are less costly.
  • are applied earlier in the pavement life.
  • can be applied in a short amount of time, resulting in minimal disruption.

The City will be completing a pilot project in 2018 to test some of these techniques.

Road Resurfacing

Resurfacing is also considered preservation as it is a proactive approach. Timely application of partial depth resurfacing preserves and protects the road structure, preventing rapid deterioration in pavement and risks due to unsafe driving conditions.

Resurfacing addresses problems on the roadway surface by replacing all or part of the top layer of asphalt pavement. It addresses issues like potholes, cracking, hummocks, bumps, and patches of street cuts (created by utility or other underground work).

Construction typically involves a milling machine that grinds off all, or a portion of the existing asphalt and then placement of a new asphalt surface. This work can usually be completed within a few days and is substantially less expensive than full road reconstruction.


Reconstruction involves removal and replacement of the asphalt surface of a road and the granular base and sub-base material (Aggregate Base). Typically, reconstruction is required when the road base has failed and reached the end of its life, when subsurface pipes require replacement or the road is being widened. 

Reconstruction is the most expensive way to treat a road and usually requires at least one full season for construction to complete. While this work is necessary in some circumstances, it can be deferred by investing in proactive treatments like those described above.

End of life holding strategies

Some roads in the city have failed and are not delivering the expected or desired level of service, but they aren’t planned to be reconstructed in the short term. A holding strategy is a relatively minor investment to achieve a short term service improvement until more permanent improvements are made. Candidate roads would be those where reactive maintenance activities (like pothole filling) and associated costs, are unusually high.

Pavement preservation activities are often equated to fixing the roof on your house. Replacing the shingles at regular intervals prevents water from getting into the house structure, which could cause expensive structural damage. Appropriately timed preventative investment in roads keeps water out of the pavement layers preventing cracks and defects from forming.

Windows of Opportunity

There is a window of opportunity in the life of a pavement where some treatments are suitable and others are not. For example:

  • preservation activities performed on a road that has failed will have little to no impact and will be wasted effort.
  • full reconstruction of a road that is young and in fair condition is unnecessary.

By completing treatments at the appropriate time within the recommended window of opportunity, the City can extend the life of a road, and reduce the total investment over the long term.

In an attempt to mitigate the effects of freeze-thaw cycles and other pavement deterioration, the City is currently (2018) piloting an Early-life Pavement Preservation Program in addition to continuing the Pavement Resurfacing Program. These programs aim to align the window of opportunity for each road with the appropriate pavement management treatment.

Cost of Renewal Strategies

The cost to reconstruct a road is 8 times that of pavement preservation. That means that by investing $1 in proactive pavement preservation, we can defer $8 worth of reconstruction. See diagram.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Barrie’s roads in good condition?

Generally, yes. In 2017, Barrie’s road network had an average Pavement Condition Index of 68, which is considered to be Good condition. The City is fortunate to have a relatively young road network, the majority of which was constructed over the last 30 years. However, the road network is reaching the age at which it will start to deteriorate more rapidly if we don’t look after them and invest appropriately.

graph: condition of Barrie roads 

Does the City know which roads are in poor condition?

Yes, the City maintains a database of the City’s roads and their condition. Pavement condition is described using a Pavement Condition Index (PCI), measured out of 100, where 100 is new pavement. The City typically hires a contractor to undertake a pavement condition assessment of every road in Barrie every four years. The last pavement condition assessment was completed in 2014. During the time between the pavement condition assessments, the City degrades the PCI (which was obtained from the most recent assessment) annually until a new PCI can be obtained through a new pavement condition assessment.

How does the City decide which roads to fix?

Some roads in poor condition require complete reconstruction along with replacement of aging, deteriorated sewers and watermains that are beneath the road surface. In other situations, we schedule appropriately timed lifecycle activities, which we often equate with fixing the roof on your home or changing the oil in your car – periodic investment in preventative maintenance extends the lives of roads and other assets and defers more costly investment.

The pavement resurfacing needs are identified using condition assessment data that is collected for the City’s entire road network and best practices for asset management as outlined in the City’s Asset Management Plan. These studies generate condition ratings on the City's roads and provide tools to prioritize the required work. Criteria that are used include traffic volumes, road classification, where the road is in its lifecycle, the value for money that the work could provide and needs of subsurface infrastructure.

Why did the City just do construction on a road that seemed like it was in good condition? There are lots of worse roads in Barrie.

Although the road may not have appeared to be in poor condition relative to other road surfaces in the City, it would likely have been showing early signs of deterioration such as longitudinal and transverse cracking with localized depressions at service crossings and catch basin. Chances are, this work was part of the City’s road resurfacing program. Roads which are candidates for this program are generally newer and in better condition than those that require full reconstruction. This type of work is often equated with changing the oil in your car – period investment in preventative maintenance, which extends the lives of roads and other assets and defers more costly investment. The cost of this type of activity is significantly less expensive than full reconstruction.

By undertaking resurfacing or other pavement preservation activities, we will have extended the life of the remaining road structure (base asphalt and granular material), maintained the level of service to the public and prevented the road from slipping to the next level of deterioration, where rehabilitation would have been more costly and disruptive.

Isn’t it a waste of money to fix a road that’s in good condition?

Timely application of road resurfacing activities preserves and protects the road structure, thereby preventing rapid deterioration in pavement condition and the need for costly reconstruction. Risks due to unsafe driving conditions are also reduced. Resurfacing has been demonstrated to be effective in reducing the life-cycle cost of roads when applied at the right time as a part of a comprehensive pavement preservation approach. Every $1 invested in road resurfacing can defer up to $8 in road reconstruction.


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