Frequently Asked Questions


Traffic Operations

General

Does the ministry have any highway cameras available for viewing on the Internet?

Yes, there are a number of cameras (BC Highway Cams) around the province. Their purpose is to display a ‘snap shot” of the road and weather conditions so drivers may effectively plan their trip. The snap shot display is updated every 15 minutes.

How is the ministry accommodating the aging driver?

There are several issues drivers face as they age such as slower reflexes and a decline in night vision. At age 60 a person needs 8 times the amount of light compared to a 20 year old. The ministry has undertaken a number of initiatives to improve traffic control devices for aging drivers:

  • Standard traffic signs are being upgraded to a higher level of sheeting material to improve night time reflectivity.
  • Guide signs will be phased in with a new “Clearview” font style which is proven to be more readable at night or under low light conditions.
  • Traffic signal bulbs were replaced with brighter and longer lasting light emitting diodes (LED) elements which greatly enhance their visibility.

What are traffic control devices?

Traffic control devices are all signs, signals, pavement markings, and devices placed on or adjacent to a road or highway by the road authority, to guide and regulate the action of motorist on public roads. The road authority is the public body that has statutory authority to install and maintain traffic control devices. The ministry is the road authority for all provincial highways and roads in un-incorporated areas of the province (including provincial highways through municipalities. In incorporated areas, the road authority is the municipality, town, or city public works department.

Are traffic control devices the same across Canada?

Generally yes. The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Device (MUTCD) for Canada provides the basic guidelines for the design of traffic control devices, and provides recommended practice for installation of traffic control. Most provinces develop their own manuals with further detail and direction on traffic control devices that address geographical or historical traffic issues. Road authorities should comply with the basic principles outlined in the MUTCD.

In BC, the Motor Vehicle Act Regulation, Division 23, also defines the specification for various traffic control devices such as sign size, shape and colours, signal displays, and pavement marking colours and application. This statutory requirement ensures all public roads in BC have consistent application of traffic control devices.

What are the elevations of major summits and passes on BC's primary highways?

The following table lists the major summits and passes along with their general location in BC. The links will provide PDFs the show grade and elevation profiles.

Hwy # Pass Name Elevation Location Highway Classification
1 Rogers Pass 1327m Glacier National Park,
South Eastern, BC
2 lane rural highway
1 Kicking Horse Pass 1643m Yoho National Park,
South Eastern, BC
2 lane rural highway
3 Crowsnest Pass 1358m East of Sparwood
(Alberta Border)
South Eastern, BC
2 lane rural highway
3 Allison Pass 1342m Manning Prov. Park
South Western, BC
2 lane rural highway
3 Sunday Summit 1282 m East of Manning Park
South Western, B.C.
2 lane rural highway
3 Kootenay Pass 1774m Salmo to Creston
South Eastern, BC
2 lane rural highway
3 Blueberry-Paulson Summit
(Bonanza Pass)
1535m Christina Lake to Castlegar
South Central, BC
2 lane rural highway
3 Anarchist Summit 1236 m East of Osoyoos
South Central, B.C.
2 lane rural highway
3B Nancy Greene Summit (Strawberry Pass) 1575 m Christina Lake to Rossland
South Central, B.C.
2 lane rural highway
5 Surrey Lake Summit 1444m 25 km North of Meritt
South Central, BC
4 lane divided freeway
5 Coquihalla Pass 1244m 60km North of Hope
South Central, BC
4 lane divided freeway
6 Monashee Pass 1189m East of Vernon
South Central, BC
2 lane rural highway
16 Yellow Head Pass 1066m Mt Robson Park
Central Eastern, BC
2 lane rural highway
16 Rainbow Summit 160m 29 km East of Prince Rupert
Central Western, BC
2 lane rural highway
20 Heckman Pass 1524m East of Bella Coola
(Tweedsmuir Park)
Central Western, BC
2 lane rural highway
24 McDonald Summit 1311m West of Little Fort
South Central, BC
2 lane rural highway
93 Sinclair Pass 1486m East of Radium Hot Springs
South Eastern, BC
2 lane rural highway
93 Vermillion Pass 1640m Kootenay National Park
South Eastern, BC
2 lane rural highway
97 Pine Pass 874m 110 km South of Chetwynd
Central BC
2 lane rural highway
97 Summit Pass 1267m 140km North of Fort Nelson
North Eastern, BC
2 lane rural highway
97C Pennask Summit 1728m 50km E Merritt
South Central, BC
4 lane divided freeway
B.C./U.S. Border

How can I find out about border crossing information?

The ministry, in conjunction with Western Canada Economic Diversification Canada, Transport Canada, Washington State DoT and Whatcom Council of Governments has developed the Advanced Travelers Information System for the major border crossings to provide this information.

How are U.S./B.C. border wait times determined?

The Ministry Advanced Traveller Information System (ATIS) calculates border wait times by determining the average service time at all open booths at a particular crossing and multiplying that by the number of cars in the queue. The service time and the number of cars in the queue are both determined by in-pavement detector loops. At the Highway 99 and Highway 15 crossings the detector loops are spread between the border checkpoint booths and 8th Avenue. The concentration of loops is heavier near the booths and are spaced approximately 100 meters apart. Beyond approximately 2nd Ave the spacing increases to 150 meters, then 250 meters and eventually 500 meters. The detector loops collect data such as traffic volume, occupancy, average lane speed and vehicle lengths.

This data is collected real-time via roadside controllers. The ATIS system polls the data every 20 seconds. The data is entered into the wait time calculation and then posted onto the Ministry website and highway signs. The website has colour coded each of the four lower mainland crossings into green and red sections which translate into areas with no vehicles waiting (green) and vehicles waiting (red). Images from Ministry traffic cameras are updated on the website every two to five minutes and the messages displayed on the changeable message signs are also on the website.

Roundabouts

Why are more roundabouts being built now?

The “modern” roundabout has come into favour recently as an effective means of controlling traffic at intersections. Roundabouts reduce delay and have a better safety performance than stop-controlled intersections when it comes to high severity collisions. The new roundabouts have improved geometric design over the older ones found in North America in the 1960s, and offer overall better performance than their predecessors and regular intersections.

A new web page "Roundabouts" has been developed that includes an animated graphic depiction of how roundabouts work.

 

Traffic Signals

I’ve noticed that the ministry traffic signals are highly visible at night – why is that?

In the past several years the ministry has embarked on two programs to enhance traffic signal visibility. The first was a change from the old incandescent light bulbs to the new brighter (but power-saving) light emitting diode (LED) replacement displays in the signal heads.
The second program was to enhance traffic signal head backboards with a border of highly reflective yellow reflective strip that greatly improves the visibility of the signal head. This has shown to be an effective means to improve safety at signalized intersections.

How does the ministry determine if a traffic signal should be installed at a particular location?

A request for a new traffic signal will be analysed using an established process that is widely accepted in the transportation industry. An engineering study will be conducted which assesses the following criteria:

  • Highway Classification
  • Total volume of traffic entering the intersection on all approaches on a typical weekday.
  • Also, the total traffic volume on the main street will be assessed alone to determine if a signal is justified.
  • The amount of delay that side street traffic encounter when trying to cross or enter the main street.
  • The impact the signal will have on smooth traffic flow. In other words, would installing the signal help traffic flow or make it worse on the main street?
  • Motor vehicle collisions: A traffic signal may reduce certain type of collisions such as right angle collisions and left turning collisions. If the collision history indicates that there is a pattern of these types of collisions, then a traffic signal would be a benefit.
  • Close proximity to other signals (less than or equal to 800 metres)
  • Number of existing signals

Once these criteria are reviewed by the traffic engineer, the analysis will help determine if a traffic signal is justified. The traffic engineer may consider other options rather than installing a signal. These include alternate forms of traffic control (e.g. 4 way stop sign control), geometric, or other improvements that may correct safety related issues, or investigate the possibility of installing a roundabout rather than a traffic signal.

Simply installing a traffic signal will not necessarily solve all perceived problems. Traffic signals can have a negative affect on traffic flow and safety if they are installed where they are not warranted. Traffic signals may result in more rear-end collisions, and can add needless delay to main street traffic if they are not required.

Why bother with all this analysis? – Why not just put in a signal when the public requests one?

Firstly, a traffic signal can have a negative affect on traffic flow and safety if it is installed where it is not necessary. A traffic signal may result in more collisions—especially rear-end collisions—and can add needless delay to main street traffic—if it is not warranted— creating driver frustration.

Secondly, traffic signals are expensive—approximately $100,000 to $200,000 to install, and a further $3-4,000 per year to operate and maintain. Installing a traffic signal without proper analysis and justification is a poor use of limited taxpayer funds, and would not be considered responsible engineering practice.


So how do traffic signals work – is there some sort of detector in the road?

All traffic signals under ministry jurisdiction are “actuated” signals, meaning that the traffic calls the green signal when a vehicle drives over a “loop” in the roadway. The “loop” is a wire embedded in a groove cut into the pavement, and is fed back to the traffic signal controller. When a vehicle drives over the loop, the traffic controller detector “senses” the change in electromagnetic field caused by the introduction of metal (from the vehicle) over the loop. Occasionally the loop will be embedded in the pavement and may not be visible.

Video detection is also being used by the ministry where cost effective. This technology uses special cameras to detect the presence of vehicles in specific pre-programmed areas, generally at the approaches to an intersection.

Another method of operating signals is by “fixed time.” In this case the traffic signal cycles continuously at fixed green, yellow, and red intervals. Fixed time signals allow controlled progression of sequential green lights from one intersection to the next through a network of signals.

pedestrian stop signalWhen I’m walking across an intersection controlled by a traffic signal the white “walk” light never stays on long enough for me to cross. Why?

The walk light is not supposed remain on long enough to allow you to cross the entire intersection. It usually comes on for about 6–10 seconds depending on the location. This indicates to the pedestrian that they may begin crossing. The flashing orange “Don’t Walk” means do not step off the curb, however if you have begun to cross, keep going – as you will normally have enough time to reach the other side. If the walk light stayed on longer, then pedestrian could be in the intersection when the opposing traffic received a green light, which is obviously not a desirable situation.

 


crosswalkWhy do some traffic lights flash green?

Traffic lights that flash green on the main street are pedestrian activated signals. The signal remains in the flashing green mode until a pedestrian, wishing to cross the main street, pushes the activation button. The signal will then cycle to a yellow light, followed by a red light for the main street traffic, then a “walk” signal allowing pedestrians to cross the road.

 

 

How do we get a pedestrian signal installed on a ministry highway?

The ministry’s traffic engineer will evaluate the location based on established guidelines to determine if a pedestrian signal is justified. In general, if there are sufficient volumes of pedestrians and high volumes of main street traffic resulting in a lack of “gaps” or crossing opportunities, a pedestrian signal may be justified.

emergency signalWhat is the purpose of the small white and blue light located on the traffic signal support?

Some traffic signals are equipped with an emergency vehicle pre-emption device which allows an emergency vehicle (usually fire trucks and ambulances) to activate a green signal in the direction they are travelling. The white and blue light is used by emergency vehicles as an indication that the pre-emption is active.

During an emergency preemption, several emergency vehicles may approach an intersection from different directions. The white light indicates which emergency vehicle has priority going through the intersection.


What is the purpose of the rectangular white light on a signal head?

This light is a transit priority light. When this light is activated, only transit buses may proceed through the intersection. This allows the bus to “jump” ahead of the regular traffic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why do I have to wait longer for a green light at a local intersection at different times of the day?

The intersection likely has a “time of day” timing plan which allocates more green time to the direction of travel with the highest volume of traffic. Since traffic flow varies during the course of the day you may find that if you are on a side street you may have to wait longer for a green light in the morning or late afternoon peak times – versus at mid-day or at night.

I have noticed two different types of left turn arrow displays when I drive; one type displays a solid green arrow when a left turn is allowed and the other type displays a flashing green arrow. What is the difference between these two different types of green arrow displays?

You are describing what is called a “Protected” and a “Protected/Permissive” left turning phasing.

The “protected phase” means that when a motorist sees a solid green arrow, the entire time is dedicated to the left turn, which is followed by a yellow, then a red signal.

The “protected/permissive phase” means that after the green arrow stops flashing, it is followed by a solid yellow arrow to indicate the exclusive left turn movement (“protected”) has ended. However, motorists will see a solid green signal so they can still make a left turn when safe to do so (“permissive”), as long as they yield to on-coming traffic.

Why do some ministry traffic signals have yellow “PREPARE TO STOP” signs with yellow flashers on them in advance of intersections? How do they work?

The ministry installs “Prepare to Stop” warning signs at traffic signals when:

  • the road has a posted speed of 70 km/h or higher;
  • there is restricted vertical or horizontal sight distance;
  • the traffic signal is the first one after a long stretch of driving without encountering another traffic signal;
  • on steep downhill grades.

These signs are used to provide additional guidance to motorists and allow a gradual deceleration before the signal changes to a yellow light. The flashers are programmed to come on at a given interval before the yellow signal comes on. This interval time will vary depending on the speed limit and grade at the site.

 

Speed Limits

How are regulatory speed limits determined?

The BC Motor Vehicle Act establishes the basic or “statutory” speed limit on all public roads: 80km/h outside municipalities and 50km/h within municipalities.

The respective road authority (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure or incorporated municipality) may alter posted speed limits.

The ministry’s policy for establishing regulatory speed limits follows the industry practice as set out by the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ document entitled “Speed Zone Guidelines, A Proposed Recommended Practice.”
Institute of Transportation Engineers

The regulatory speed limits on ministry highways range from 50 to 110km/h, in 10km/h increments depending on the type of highway.

The guiding principle in establishing a regulatory speed limit is the use of the 85th percentile speed concept. This means that setting the speed limit as near as practicable to the speed limit at which 85% of traffic is traveling at or below under ideal road and weather conditions is the basis for a speed limit. This 85th percentile speed limit may then be adjusted to obtain a final posted speed limit, as determined by the traffic engineer. Factors taken into consideration for the adjustment include: safety performance of the road, geometric features such as shoulder width, number of intersections or accesses and surrounding land use.


Who establishes the regulatory speed limits on provincial highways?

The regional traffic engineer is responsible for conducting the speed zone study, analysis and recommended speed limit. The ministry’s Chief Engineer approves all speed limits on provincial highways.

Where does the regulatory speed limit change take effect?

The Motor Vehicle Act specifies that the speed limit is in effect at the point which the black and white regulatory speed limit sign is placed.

The highway adjacent to my property is posted at 90km/h. Why won’t the ministry consider posting a 60km/h zone to slow traffic down in front of my property?

It is a popular misconception that reducing the regulatory posted speed will automatically reduce the speed of traffic. Similarly, raising the regulatory posted speed limit will not necessarily increase the speed of traffic. Studies have shown that drivers will tend to disregard regulatory posted speed limits that they deem unreasonable. An unrealistically low speed limit will simply result in speed differentials between the few motorist who actually will obey the regulatory limit, and the majority who disregard it. If the unrealistic regulatory speed limit were to be enforced it may create antagonism toward the police and traffic laws in general.

What is the difference between the speed posted on the small yellow signs and the speed posted on larger black and white signs?

The speed posted on the small, square, black and yellow signs are advisory speed limits and are normally used in conjunction with a sign warning of a curve. These signs are posted for driver safety and guidance.

The black and white speed signs are regulatory. If a driver is found to be exceeding this limit, it is a ticketable offence.

How can I get a 30km/h school regulatory speed limit installed on the highway?

The school speed zones may be approved by the regional traffic engineer. They are only used on roads adjacent to where an elementary school is located, however due to the restrictive nature of the 30km/h speed limit, they are not be installed on a numbered provincial highway. Elementary schools that have a property line along a numbered provincial highway should fence the property between the school and highway, and use a side road to access school property. The side road could then be signed with a 30km/h school.

Under the Motor Vehicle Act the school zone is in effect from 8am to 5pm, or as specified on the speed sign.

Playground zones are in effect from sunrise to sunset.

Pavement Marking

How are the passing and no passing sections determined on rural highways?

Sections of two lane rural highways where passing is permitting in the opposing lane, (indicated by the presence of a dashed yellow line), is determined by using established guidelines where specific sight distance available to the motorist is measured. As long as an adequate sight distance is met, as determined by a field crew, passing is permitted. The actual sight distance varies with the speed limit, for example at 100km/h the minimum sight distance is 400m.

The general procedure is outlined in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Canada, so that all road agencies use the same general principals, resulting in passing zones on the national road network being consistently applied.

What type of paint is used for road marking and how do they make it reflective?

Road marking paint is specially formulated for the traffic. Several manufacturers produce this paint. Both the yellow and white paint are alkyd-based paint. The ministry tests road marking paint on a regular basis to assess its suitability for road marking

Often stop bars and crosswalk are marked using thermoplastic materials rather than paint. At these location thermoplastic is much more durable and lasts up to five times longer than paint.

Road marking are made reflective by the application of specially manufactured glass beads which are added to the paint after it is sprayed on the pavement.

Why aren’t the lines wider—wouldn’t they be easier to see?

All are 100mm wide except for lines on freeways near ‘critical” areas (such as exit ramps) which are 200mm wide. These dimensions are consistent with national standards.

The ministry may approve wider edge lines (150mm) at locations where they are considered justified from a safety perspective. A network-wide use of wider lines would add significant cost to the ministry’s pavement marking costs.

Why aren’t the pavement markings reflective when it’s raining?

All pavement marking have reflective qualities. Reflective glass beads are added to the paint as it is applied. Unfortunately, if it is raining, the reflective qualities of the markings are greatly diminished as water coats the glass beads and reduces the reflective qualities.

Additionally, markings become less reflective as they age. Normal traffic wears the markings, and sand and salt in the snow belt areas act as an abrasive and further deteriorates the markings.

There are new types of marking material with greatly improved life spans. Some are highly effective in terms or visibility at night under wet conditions, however these products are approximately thirty times the cost of paint – therefore this limits their use.

How often does the ministry re-paint the markings?

Directional dividing lines on major routes are painted annually. Lane edge lines and dividing lines on lower volumes routes are done every second year. Overall the ministry paints approximately 30,000 lane-kilometers of lines every year.



Why doesn’t the ministry use more “cat’s eyes” or pavement reflectors?

The term “cat’s eyes” refers to a particular brand of pavement reflector that was developed in the UK. The generic term for pavement reflectors is “raised pavement markers” (RPMs).

Raised pavement markers are effective in improving driver guidance, especially in the south coast and Vancouver Island areas of the province. In other areas where winters are quite snowy, reflectors are often severely damaged or removed by snowplows. The ministry has researched and experimented with various reflector designs that are considered “snowplowable”. However none have proven to be durable and cost-effective over the long term. The ministry has looked at installing pavement reflectors in recessed grooves but water tends to accumulates in the grooves, diminishing the reflective qualities of the reflector. In snowy areas the recesses often get packed with snow and sand, and the reflectors often become damaged from vehicles using tire chains.

In some cities, road lanes have a diamond painted on the pavement. What is that for?

The diamond symbol on the pavement indicates that lane is reserved for a certain class of vehicles. It could be a high occupancy vehicles (HOV) lane specifying a minimum number people that must be in a vehicle or reserved for transit buses. Signs at the beginning of these reserved lanes will indicate the criteria for using the lane and any other relevant information—such as time of day the restriction is in place.



Why do “high occupancy vehicle” lanes differ in the requirement for the number of people required in a vehicle? I notice some HOV lanes require 2+ people while others require 3+ people.

Occupancy rates are determined by lane usage, lane demand and highway capacity constraints. For example, on Highway 99 the HOV lanes converge from a 6-lane highway down to a 4-lane highway at the George Massey Tunnel (Deas Island). The 3+ designation allows the ministry to better manage the traffic flows entering the tunnel.


2 Line Crosswalk

Why are some crosswalks marked with two parallel lines while other have solid rectangles across the road?

The crosswalks marked with solid rectangle bars across the street are called “zebra” crosswalks and are used by the ministry added emphasis for the pedestrian crossing is required. This includes mid-block cross-walks, unsignalized cross-walks crossing the highway, and crosswalks near schools where there is a high number of children crossing the road.


Zebra Crosswalk

Municipalities may also use zebra crosswalks, and may establish their own policies as to when and where they use them. In some locations motorists will see wide spread use of zebra crosswalks, compared to ministry roads or other jurisdictions.

 


Traffic Signs

Why don’t you use the “Keep Right Except to Pass” sign instead of the “Slower Traffic Keep Right” sign on multi-lane highways?

On multi-lane roadways, the standard is to use the “Slower Traffic Keep Right” sign. Using the “Keep Right Except to Pass” sign tends to force drivers into the right lane which is not desirable on high volume urban highways where all lanes must be used to handle capacity. Outside of B.C., the “Keep Right Except to Pass” sign is used on passing and climbing lanes on 2 lane rural highways.

What is the difference between the black signs with white arrows; the white signs with black arrows; and red or green circles with a horizontal slash line through them? They all appear at intersections.

The black signs with white arrows are called “lane control signs.” They specify the movement that is permitted in a particular lane. They are used when the lane requires a maneuver different than normally expected (e.g. a right lane that becomes a mandatory right turn movement, may have a right turn lane control sign mounted above this lane).

The white signs with black arrows in a red or green circle are “turn control” signs. They regulate the type of movement allowed or disallowed at the intersection, but do not reference the movement by lane.

For example; a black left turn arrow within a red circle with a diagonal slash through it means no left turns are permitted at the intersection. However if the 2 right hand lanes were mandatory right turns then a right turn lane control sign (white arrow on black) would be mounted over each right turn lane in addition to the turn control sign.

Turn Control Signs Lane Control Signs
Right Turn
Only
Left Turn
Only
No Left
Turns
No Right
Turns
Left Turn
Lane
Through
Lane
Right Turn
Lane

On many highways there are yellow curve signs with a speed limit on a small, square sign below the curve sign. I can drive a lot faster around the curve than the speed limit indicated on the sign – why is that?

The criteria used to establish the curve advisory speed is long established. Although this basic procedure is used by highway agencies throughout North America, the result may be somewhat conservative for some modern automobiles, therefore the average driver will find themselves possibly driving through a curve at higher than the advisory speed, under ideal road conditions, without any discomfort. Curve testing is done with a standard passenger vehicle, therefore truck drivers may find the advisory speed more accurate as the higher centre of gravity results in more discomfort than a passenger vehicle while traveling through a curve.

 

Why is my town not listed on the green guide signs on the highway?

Generally the ministry tries to limit the information on guide signs to the necessary information the motorist needs to make navigational decisions. Research has shown that drivers can only read and comprehend a small amount of information at highway speeds. Since the amount of information that can be represented to the driver is limited, destinations placed on guide signs are limited to 3 (major destination at the end of the route) and the next 2 major cities or towns. Placing smaller towns and community names on the guide signs would add too much information for the driver to comprehend and could lead to driver errors.

How are exits numbers for interchanges determined?

Exit numbers are sequential starting at “1” from the southern (for north-south highways) or western (for east-west highway) commencement of the highway. The numbers represent the distance in kilometres the exit is from the commencement point of the highway. For interchanges with 2 exits, the number is suffixed with an “A” for the first exit (traveling in a northbound or eastbound direction) followed by a “B” for the second. Therefore motorist traveling in the opposite direction (southbound or westbound) will see e.g. “EXIT 2B” followed by “EXIT 2A.”

 

How can I get a blue and white sign on the highway for my business?

The “Service & Attraction Sign Program” is a comprehensive sign program to provide standardize direction signs for approved motorist services (food, fuels and accommodation) and tourist attractions.

The eligibility criteria and entire sign policy are detailed in the following program manuals (Adobe Acrobat PDFs):

http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/publications/eng_publications/
electrical/Service_Attract_manual.pdf

What should I do if I plan to put up a sign near a provincial highway or if I need access to ministry property?

To maintain the efficiency of the provincial highway system and to ensure public safety, all development next to highways must comply with the standards and requirements set by the ministry and perhaps the municipality. Therefore, it is imperative to discuss your proposal with staff in your ministry district office. Please refer to the government of B.C. listings in the blue pages of your telephone book under Transportation for the office nearest you, or use the following link: http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/contacts.htm

 

Why does ministry used the electronic message signs and how are they used?

These signs, referred to as “changeable message signs” (CMS) are used throughout the province to communicate road conditions such as construction activities, closures, weather related conditions, traffic accidents etc. that may affect the travel time and route selection for motorists. The CMS signs may also display the occasional public safety message such as the “Amber Alert” messages in cooperation with the RCMP.

Election Signs

What is the ministry's policy regarding election signs on a highway right-of-way?

The ministry conditionally allows election posters or signs on highway rights-of-way, with the exception of freeways or any major highway structures.  Election posters or signs:

  • must not be attached to, obstruct or simulate any traffic control device;
  • must not be positioned closer to the traveled lanes than standard traffic signs;
  • must not be placed and/or constructed in any fashion that may cause a traffic hazard;
  • are not allowed until election writ has been dropped.

Are there any highways where election campaign signs are not allowed to appear?

The sign policy of the ministry allows the placement of election campaign signs along most provincial highways on a first-come, first-served basis. There are, however, some exceptions. Election campaign signs are not allowed to be placed on some freeways.

How does the ministry handle the removal of election signs?

Signs or posters contravening the conditions mentioned in the answers to the previous two questions will be taken down by the ministry.

The next working day after an election, the election signs should be taken down by those who installed them.

 
Street Lighting

How many streetlights does the ministry operate?

The ministry operates approximately 20,000 conventional street lights and approximately 600 high mast lights. Additionally, there are numerous fixtures such as sign luminaires and tunnel lights etcetera.

How do street lights turn on at dusk and off at dawn? Also, why do some lights turn on at different times than others?

Street lights are controlled by photo electric cells. These devices sense the amount of daylight and turn the street light on and off at preset light levels. Some street lights are controlled individually, whereas some jurisdictions, such as the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, control street lights in groups.

What type of bulbs are used in streetlights?

The ministry uses “high pressure sodium” bulbs which provide 5 times the output for the same wattage as an incandescent bulb – ranging from 150 to 400 watts depending on the location and size of roadway. The high mast lighting at interchanges uses 1000 watt HPS bulbs.

Why are some highway interchanges lit with clusters of lights on very high poles, whereas other interchanges are lit with individual lights and poles?

Often, high volume, urban interchanges are illuminated using “high mast” lighting structures which can have a number of 1000 watt bulbs. High mast lighting illuminates a large area, which makes them cost effective for interchanges. A cost benefit analysis is often used to show the advantages of using high mast lighting.

Why do some of the larger tunnels on the provincial highway system seem to have higher lighting levels at the entrances to the tunnel and get darker as you drive further into the tunnel? Also, it appears there are more light fixtures turn on in the daytime than at night.

Long tunnels are illuminated with multilevel lighting zones (usually three levels plus a nighttime level) to allow the eye to adapt from the outside light levels to lower light levels. At night, this adjustment isn’t required, and the nighttime level is lower than any of the daytime levels.

Why is it difficult to see the light source in some street lights until you are almost directly beneath it?

It is likely you are noticing the newer “flat glass” style street lights (luminaries) which illuminate the road with a very small upward component of light. This type of luminaire greatly reduces “skyglow” and is more efficient and less expensive than the older style of luminaire.

Is the ministry utilizing new, energy efficient LED's for street lighting?

The ministry actively researches new technologies we are aware of to determine their suitability for use on the Provincial Highway System. Our priorities are safety and value for the taxpayers' dollar. LED technology has had a major impact on the traffic signal industry, providing up to 90 % power savings over the previous incandescent traffic signal bulbs. The ministry partnered with BC Hydro to convert all of our traffic signals to LED and realized these power savings. LED street lights are still in their infancy and are significantly more expensive than the current high pressure sodium technology we use almost exclusively for street lighting on the Highway system. In addition, the efficacy (lumen output per input watt) for High Pressure Sodium is still higher than it is for LED fixtures.

Traffic Calming

Why doesn’t the ministry use more traffic calming devices such as speed humps?

Traffic calming techniques are gaining popularity with municipalities as a tool to slow and restrict traffic primarily in residential neighborhoods. The ministry’s jurisdiction is primarily the provincial highway network with the emphasis on inter and intra provincial traffic. The ministry’s mandate is to improve the traffic flow efficiency rather than restrict it, so traffic calming tools are usually only used at the municipal level.

Safety

Why are there grooves in the pavement along the shoulder of some highways?

You are describing shoulder rumble strips. They are proven to be an effective “audible delineation” (sound and vibration warning) for preventing off road collisions. The rumble strips are designed so they will have minimum impact on cyclists using the shoulders, while still improving motorist safety.

Why is there concrete safety barrier on the shoulders of some roads and not on others? Also, why doesn’t the ministry use the steel barrier like they do in Washington state?

Concrete roadside barrier (CRB) is installed along the shoulder of highways where it is justified and where funding permits. Not all locations require CRB. Some of the criteria that is assessed when determining if CRB should be installed is: shoulder width, the slope of the ditch and volume of traffic on the highway. Generally – the steeper the shoulder, the narrower the shoulder, and the higher the traffic volumes – the more likely barrier will be justified.

The steel “W” beam type of guardrail may be used on BC highways. However the preference is to use the concrete barrier, as it costs about the same to install as the steel “W” beam guardrail. The concrete barrier requires less maintenance after it is installed.

Why doesn’t the ministry install more median barriers? Wouldn’t this help prevent head on collisions?

Median barrier is effective in reducing head on collisions, however in most cases there is insufficient width to place barrier in a median area on an existing highway. The barrier itself is approximately 0.6m wide, plus an additional meter on each side of the barrier is required as a comfortable offset distance from the driving lane. In order to install median barrier, approximately 2.6m of width is required. On 2-lane highways, median barrier is not used except on isolated, very short highway segments prone to collisions—where adequate road width exists, or where the road can be widened.

How much barrier is there on ministry roads?

Approximately 2100 km.

 

Winter Tires

Where are M+S or Winter Rated (Severe Winter Service) Tires required on BC highways?

There are Regulatory Signs (R047) posted in various locations on numbered and un-numbered highways throughout the province.

The R-047 Regulatory sign “Must Use Winter Tires - M+S or a Tire with the Mountain and Snowflake pictograph on it – October 1st – March 31st“

Where are winter tires and chains required on BC highways?

There are Regulatory Signs (R047) posted in various locations on numbered and un-numbered highways throughout the province.

The R-047 Regulatory sign Must Use Winter Tires - M+S or a Tire with the Mountain and Snowflake pictograph on it – October 1st – March 31st.

When placed upon a highway, the sign will prohibit vehicles from being driven or operated on a highway that are not equipped with M+S Tires (All Season) or a tire with the Mountain and Snowflake pictograph on the tire’s sidewall.  These signs are enforced by the police, ministry or other enforcement officials.

R-047

R-047 Sign

W-041

W-041 Sign

 

The W-041 Warning sign when placed upon a highway is to inform motorists that winter driving conditions can be expected on provincial highways from October 1st - March 31st.  Therefore, motorist should be properly equipped with appropriate winter safety equipment between October 1st – March 31st, and may be prevented from proceeding on highways which have R-047 regulatory signs “Must Use Winter Tires - M+S or a Tire with the Mountain and Snowflake pictograph on it – October 1st – March 31st“placed upon the highway.

Why is a single axle truck symbol represented on the R-047 and W-041 signs to carry chains on highways in BC, as I know I can get M+S tires for my smaller commercial truck?

The single axle truck symbol is the symbol most often used on signs in North American (i.e. by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)) to represent all commercial trucks.  Not all commercial vehicles can obtain M+S or Mountain and Snowflake tires for their commercial vehicles.  If commercial vehicles under the 27,000 kg vehicle size (e.g. tractor-trailer type units) cannot obtain M+S or Mountain and Snowflake tires, they are required to carry chains.

I drive a Class A Recreational Vehicle (RV) that looks similar to those buses used by commercial coach/bus lines that travel the highway system.  What category do I fall under on the R-047 Sign?  Do I need the M+S tires or Mountain and Snow flake symbol, or do I need to carry chains?

The symbol of the Truck Camper on the sign represents all classes of RV vehicles so your vehicle falls into the Truck Camper category.  While carrying chains when traveling through British Columbia from October 1st to March 31st is always recommended in case severe winter conditions are encountered, the minimum requirement for RV type vehicles is to use the M+S or Mountain and Snowflake tires.

Where are the areas in British Columbia where the R-047 signs apply on BC highways?

While drivers should always have their vehicles prepared for winter driving conditions at least by the dates shown on the signs, the maps shown below provide an overview as to what highways in the province where R-047 regulations apply.

 

Click on the maps below to see the regional highways requiring winter tires and/or chains. See also Tires and Chain-up Information.

South Coast Map

 

Southern Interior Map

 

Northern Map

 

Who are required to carry Tire Chains on BC highways?

It is always recommended that all motorist be prepared by carrying chains in preparation for situations where severe winter weather is encountered. However, chains are only required by trucks whose weight is 27,000 kg or greater, and those commercial vehicles who are unable to obtain M+S type tires, or tires with the Mountain and Snowflake pictograph.

Do Winter Tire Chains need to be the steel link type?

For commercial vehicles, winter tire chains of the steel link type are recommended, as these chains have a track record of providing superior traction for the heavy loads commercial vehicles carry and to prevent lateral slippage. Lateral slippage can occur, especially when traversing through highway curves that have super-elevated/sloped curves. Cable chains that wrap around the tire are generally not used on commercial vehicles.

The BC MVA – Regulations Division 19.03 (2) in part state the following when referring to tire chains states …… to use tire chains of reasonable proportions on a motor vehicle when required for safety.

Please see the BC MoTI’s brochure Tire Chains and Winter Tires for more information on chaining commercial vehicles.

Passenger vehicles may use alternative traction devices which function and provide performance similar to steel type chains. It is recommended that alternative traction devices used be from a manufacturer who has tested their products for performance in winter conditions.

Are there any regulations in B.C. that deal with winter tires?

See BC Motor Vehicle Act - (Chapter 318 - Part 3)

Safety equipment

208  (1) For the purpose of this section, “winter tire” means a tire that is

(a) advertised or represented by its manufacturer or a person in the business of selling tires to be a tire intended principally for winter use, and that provides, or is designed to provide, adequate traction in snow or mud; and

(b) in the condition respecting tread wear and other particulars the regulations prescribe.

(2) The Minister of Transportation and Highways may, by public notice or by placing signs, prohibit vehicles from being driven or operated on a highway that are not equipped with chains, winter tires or sanding devices, or a combination of these the minister considers adequate and necessary in view of prevailing road conditions.

(3) For the purposes of a prosecution under this section, the onus is on the defendant to prove that a tire alleged not to be a winter tire is in fact a winter tire.

See BC Motor Vehicle Act – Motor Vehicle Act Regulations - (Division 7 - Other Equipment)

Winter tires

7.162 A winter tire as defined in section 208 of the Act shall have not less than 3.5 mm of tread depth across the surface of the tire in contact with the road.

[en. B.C. Reg. 161/76, s. 1; am. B.C. Reg. 343/77.]

Are studded tires permitted on BC highways?

Yes, from October 1st to April 30th. Use of studded tires outside of this period may result in a fine.

See BC Motor Vehicle Act – Motor Vehicle Act Regulations – Section 19.03

See BC Motor Vehicle Act – Motor Vehicle Act Regulations – Section 20.  

What are tires with a “severe winter service” rating?

Winter-Rated Snow Tires

Tires marked with the pictograph of a peaked mountain with a snowflake meet specific snow traction performance requirements, and have been designed specifically for use in severe snow conditions.

See Transport Canada - Safe Vehicles

There are all kinds of vehicles: cars, trucks, vans, school buses, scooters, motorcycles and more. All of these have to share the road, together, so it is important to understand what is different about each type and why all vehicles must be safe and well-maintained.

See Transport Canada - Winter Tires

What tires do you need for your driving conditions?

How many winter tires should be used on a car?

To help maintain control and stability of your vehicle in icy conditions, Transport Canada and the Rubber Association of Canada recommend that you install winter tires in sets of four.

See Transport Canada - Winter Tire Safety Tips

Does your ministry have information on winter driving in B.C.?

See the brochure: Winter Safety — Tire Chains and Winter Tires

Cycling

Is bicycling allowed on provincial highways?

Almost all of the provincial highways may be accessed by bicyclists. The only exception is urban freeways (portions of Highway 99, Highway 1 in the Vancouver area) where bicycling is prohibited for safety reasons. In these cases cyclist are required to use the parallel street network which ends in the same destination.

Some segments of road may have narrower shoulders than what bicyclists desire. For further information on the ministry's cycling policy see our special section on this webpage at: http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/BikeBC/

Why do bicyclist have to active the flashers before going into the tunnels on Highway 1 east of Hope?

The series of tunnels on this segment of Highway 1 were designed and constructed decades ago to the standards of the day. They have very narrow shoulders and some of the tunnels are on a curve so it is difficult for motorists to see cyclists in the tunnel. The ministry is piloting an active warning sign sign to warn motorist to be more aware of the fact that a bicyclist may be present in the tunnel, and to proceed with extra caution.

The rumble strips on the shoulders make bicycling difficult—is the ministry going to continue using them?

Yes, as long as there is adequate shoulder width for bicycling, ministry will consider using shoulder rumble strips. Studies have indicated that where rumble strips are in place, off-road accidents have been reduced. Gaps will be left in the rumble strips on highway segments to allow opportunities for cyclists to maneuver across the edge line to avoid obstacles on the shoulder. Rumble strips are also terminated prior to most driveways and intersections to allow comfortable turning movement by cyclists. See the Q&A under “Safety” for more information on this topic.

Travel/Tourist Information

Where can I get general tourist information about B.C.?

The ministry's Web site offers a link to Tourism British Columbia http://www.hellobc.com for information on route options, stops of interest and accommodations.

The Travel B.C. link http://www.travel.bc.ca/ offers additional information.

Where can I get on-line information about highway routes and travel times?

DriveBC.ca is a great resource for drivers planning a trip. Distance calculations, rest area locations, highway closures and disruptions, weather information and more are available for route planning.

There are also many commercial sites to consider. The following examples are not endorsed by the ministry but may provide some useful information:

http://mapquest.com/

http://www.freetrip.com/cgi-bin/autopilot2.pl

 

Motor Vehicle Information

Where can I get information about vehicle insurance, driving rules and regulations, road safety, commercial vehicles, and drivers' licences?

The ministry’s Web site offers a link to the Insurance Corporation of B.C.

I understand that British Columbia has some restrictions for pick-up trucks or recreational vehicles towing loads.  What are they?

Vehicle weight restrictions and towing requirements fall under the jurisdiction of Compliance Operation at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC).

Highway Traffic and Road Conditions

Where can I get the latest highway condition information?

Visit Drive BC.

There are cameras set up to monitor traffic around the Lower Mainland. Can I see these images on the Internet?

At the present time, the answer is no.

There are cameras set up to monitor traffic on heavily-travelled routes like the Lions Gate Bridge, Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing, Massey Tunnel and Highway 1. These cameras are owned and operated by the ministry, and are used to identify and quickly deal with traffic congestion and accidents. Currently, these cameras are not set up to transmit images to the Internet.

How do I report potholes or other issues related to highway maintenance?

To report the location of potholes or other highway maintenance issues, contact your local highway maintenance contractor.

You can also use the "Report A Highway Problem" feature on the DriveBC site.

Comments about local or regional roads should be directed to the city or municipality involved.

How can I participate in the Adopt a Highway program?

In some locations around the province, local highway maintenance contractors work with community groups to clean up highway rights-of-way. To see whether or not this program is available in your area, please contact your local highway maintenance contractor, listed in the provincial sector of your blue pages of the telephone book. Also check out the ministry's Adopt a Highway web pages: http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/adopt-a-hwy/adopt-a-hwy_home.htm

How do I make a claim for damage related to highway property or highway activity?

Anyone in the province who wishes to file a claim, may do so by:

Obtaining an H0050 (1998/03) NOTIFICATION OF CLAIM form from any ministry district or regional office. The H0050 claim form can also be viewed and printed.

Alternatively, potential claimants can submit a letter outlining the details of their claim, including their name, where and when the accident happened, if the accident was discussed with a ministry representative (if yes, please provide their name and telephone number). Describe any losses or damages sustained and whether police attended (if so, please provide a copy of the police report). In those instances where a claimant’s vehicle or another person’s vehicle was involved, please provide licence plate and insurance information. Please ensure the claimant’s address and telephone number is included with the claim to enable a ministry adjuster to contact you as soon as possible.

Please fax or mail the H0050 form or your letter to:

Claims Unit
Construction and Maintenance Branch
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
PO BOX 9850 STN PROV GOVT
VICTORIA BC V8W 9T5

Telephone: (250) 387-7578
Facsimile: (250) 356-9724 or (250) 356-2480
Office Location: 4C-940 Blanshard Street, Victoria B.C.

Highway Construction Contract Information

Where can I obtain information on contract opportunities or learn about how to secure contracts with the ministry?

Details about tenders, contracts and bidding can be obtained through the following link: http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/BCHighways/contracts/contract.htm

Wildlife Collisions

How many wild animals are killed on British Columbia highways each year?

Since 1993, about 4,700 wild animals are reported killed on British Columbia highways each year.
Wildlife Accident Reporting System (WARS) publications

What is the most common species of wild animal killed on British Columbia highways?

In 2002, deer represented about 77% of the wild animals killed on British Columbia highways. Over the last 10 years, about 80% of wildlife collisions involved deer.

When do most bear-related motor vehicle collisions occur?

Bear-related vehicle collisions peak in September in the north parts of the Province and in October in the south parts.

What does the ministry do to reduce wildlife-related vehicle collisions?

The ministry has the most comprehensive inventory of wildlife warning signs in the world. The inventory includes signs ranging from the more common wild animals, such deer and moose to rarer ones, such as badgers, bison and wild horses.

With over 460 kilometres installed, British Columbia has more special fencing to protect wildlife than any other transportation agency in North America. The ministry works closely with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) and the BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection (WLAP) on wildlife collisions. In 2000, the ministry and WLAP were involved in the relocation of Roosevelt Elk from Highway 19, on the east side of Vancouver Island, to a safer location on the west side of the island.

What should a driver do if there are wild animals on the side of the road?

Slow down, and proceed with caution. Wild animals can be unpredictable.

How many kilometres of wildlife fencing has the ministry installed?

The ministry has installed a total of 467 kilometres of wildlife exclusion fencing. This represents the most wildlife exclusion fencing installed by any transportation agency in North America.

How effective is wildlife exclusion fencing for reducing wildlife-related vehicle collisions?

The fencing is about 97% to 99% effective in reducing wildlife-related collisions when the fencing is installed on both sides of highway.

Other Questions About the ministry

How can I find out about employment opportunities with the ministry?

Visit the Government Employment Opportunities site:

http://www.employment.gov.bc.ca/

I have a question about a legal Act, a Bill or other legislative material for British Columbia. Where can I get more details?

One of the best sources for legislative information is the Legislative of Assembly of British Columbia Web site at http://www.legis.gov.bc.ca/