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 $805 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, and maintains a database of the City’s roads and their condition. On this page:

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:

Diagram detailing pavement layers within the pavement's wearing surface and the aggregate base
The layers of a road. 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.

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 Management Strategies & Treatments

Between a road’s initial construction and when it needs full replacement, there are several pavement management options. The City optimizes allocated funding by applying various maintenance strategies to roads throughout the City. The goals are to improve service to the public, maximize the road's life at the lowest overall life-cycle cost, and reduce reactive maintenance costs. 

Proactive Strategies

Proactive strategies are used when the pavement is in early to mid life. Preservation is less expensive and faster than strategies used later in the pavement's life, when the road has deteriorated more. 

Preservation is like fixing the roof on your house. Replacing the shingles regularly prevents water from getting into the house, which could cause expensive structural damage. Timely preventative road investments keep water out of the pavement layers preventing cracks and defects.

Reactive Strategies

Reactive strategies are used on roads that have reached the end of their useful lives and have deteriorated past the point that preservation activities will help. Relatively minor investments are made to improve service until more permanent improvements are possible.


At some point in a road’s life, it will require replacement because preservation techniques are no longer an acceptable way of repairing the road. 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.

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

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.

Asbestos in Asphalt

Asbestos was used as an additive to asphalt from the 1960s to mid-1980s, added to asphalt mix to provide greater strength and performance. It is not used in asphalt anymore, but in many municipalities roads that were built between the 1960s and early 1980s could contain asbestos.

Asbestos is bound within the pavement, so there is very low risk to the public. Even when asphalt containing asbestos breaks down, it’s still bound within the asphalt. It does not pose a risk until it’s airborne, which happens when it’s cut into during the construction process.

Before road construction or maintenance begins, the City first tests the asphalt for asbestos. If the asphalt contains asbestos, special precautions are taken by workers removing the asphalt. These provincially legislated precautions include wetting the asphalt to prevent the dust from becoming airborne, and workers are required to wear proper protective equipment.

Asbestos in Asphalt FAQs

Pavement Management FAQs