More frost heaves expected on Prince Edward Island roads before end of season

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Transport heavy loads before restrictions in place, advises Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal department

To report a problem on a provincial roadway, visit and click on “Report a Problem”. For more on weight restrictions, visit

A section of the Trans-Canada highway west of Charlottetown, known now as "Plan B." Drivers are questioning why the new multimillion-dollar highway is so rocky.

Commercial haulers should transport their heavier-than-normal loads now before spring weight restrictions are placed on Island roadways, says Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Robert Vessey.

Weight restrictions are put in place during thawing periods when road surfaces become soft.

While weight restrictions are in effect, no over-weight vehicles are permitted on the province’s all-weather highways (such as routes 1, 1A, 2, and 3). On all other roads, the weight of the vehicle and its load must total no more than 75 per cent of the vehicle’s maximum allowable weight.

“Our highways will begin to soften once pavement temperatures climb above freezing for several days in a row,” Vessey said. “At that point, weight restrictions will be put into place to protect Islanders’ investment in our roadways from being damaged from heavy vehicles.”

Roads are more vulnerable to damage from heavy vehicles in late winter and early spring. Water from melted ice and snow seeps into cracks in the thawing pavement and into the gravel underneath – then it re-freezes and expands, breaking the  pavement and causing potholes.

“Frost heaving” – or washboarding – happens when ice continues to form under the pavement from a steady supply of water, pushing the road surface upward and making it uneven.

The province recently responded to concerns about such an issue on its newest section of Trans-Canada Highway, known as Plan B. Some drivers have been complaining about how uneven and bumpy the road through New Haven and Bonshaw has become.

Steve Yeo, the province’s chief engineer, told The Guardian the construction work was done so late into the season that the moisture didn’t have time to dry and settle, making the foundation uneven.

“I fully expected that to happen,” Yeo said. “Under the asphalt you get pockets of higher moisture content, which when it freezes raises more.”

The department also noted that Prince Edward Island’s silty clay soil collects and holds more water beneath road surfaces than in other areas of the country, making Island roads more susceptible to frost heaving and potholes despite any drainage measures put into place.

Organizations: Infrastructure Renewal department, Trans-Canada Highway, The Guardian

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, New Haven, Bonshaw

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Recent comments

  • gravel and insulation
    February 12, 2014 - 06:40

    Funny, the Trans Canada Highway on each side of the Maypoint Rd intersection was completely rebuilt during the fixed link construction years and it hasn't had many problems, aside from a bit of worn out asphalt on the surface. You know why? They dug out the entire road about 6-8 feet deep, then they put a 2-3 foot thick layer of crushed stone, then about 1 foot thick of styrofoam insulation and then another 2-3 feet of gravel. Then they paved on top of it. That's how you build a road in PEI. Not this cr@ppy construction you get from the road builders association who ''use shale'' (also known as crumbly old sandstone) and then a skim coat of asphalt on top..... oh yeah, and make sure you spread the work out over 11 weeks when it would take 3 days in any other province. Pathetic.