New P.E.I. highways expected to deteriorate at rate more than twice national average

·3 min read

Prince Edward Islanders can expect just 15 years of useful life from a newly built arterial highway, less than half the national average, according to a report from Statistics Canada.

Arterial highways are defined as roads that move moderate to high traffic volumes between principal areas of traffic generation.

P.E.I. highways have the shortest expected useful life of any province in the country. The national average for the expected life of arterial roads is 31 years, and the life expectancy goes as high as 35 in Manitoba.

The Island's collector roads last two years longer on average, for a lifespan of 17 years. The report defines those as routes that move low to moderate traffic volumes within a municipality and collect local traffic for distribution to the arterial or highway system.

The national average lifespan for collector roads is the same as for highways nationally — 31 years.

P.E.I.'s local roads were estimated to have the ability to last an average of 23 years. In Canada, only those in Newfoundland and Labrador have a shorter estimated lifespan among local roads, at 22 years.

'Too many variables'

Robert Ransom is the Statistics Canada unit head responsible for the report. He wouldn't be drawn into speculation about why Prince Edward Island roads deteriorate so relatively quickly.

"There's too many things you could speculate on in that and too many variables that you just may not know without being there," he told CBC News in an interview from Ottawa Monday.

But in terms of a road reaching the end of its lifespan, and no longer being functional, he described it this way: "As the road is being used, the concrete cracks, you get potholes, you get small fissures, at the edges you'll have chunks of concrete or asphalt falling off, depending on the type of road.

"And when it gets to the point that it really isn't usable except for like off-road vehicles or without possibly damaging your vehicle, then it might get decommissioned."

CBC News reached out to the provincial government Monday morning for comment on factors leading the roads to wear out more quickly. No answer had been received by the end of the business day.

Roads rated by local officials

For the study, using data collected in 2018, Statistics Canada contacted provincial officials as well as all municipalities with a population of 1,000 people or more, and a sampling of municipalities with between 500 and 1,000 residents.

The officials were asked to rate the classes of roads in their jurisdiction based on how many years a stretch built in 2018 would be expected to last — in other words, how long it will be in a usable condition.

"When a road gets to being in an unusable condition, it's where local traffic refuses to use the road," said Ransom. "There are a large number of potholes. The quality of the road is below about 10 per cent of its original construction."

In 2018, the study found, "there were 1,066,180 kilometres of publicly-owned roads (two-lane equivalents) in Canada."

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