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Quebec motorists often say it: in terms of roads, “they have it, the Americans.”The secret? A little thicker asphalt, but mostly a lot more money.

For every dollar Quebec puts into the maintenance of one kilometre of pavement, the State of Vermont puts about two, our Bureau of Investigation has calculated.

The Ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ) invests $8,000 per lane kilometre per year, while in Vermont it is more than $16,000.


The amounts taken into account are all those related to asphalting and reconstruction of pavements.

As a result, Vermont has chosen to invest more in the maintenance of its roads, and building sector than in other public services.Almost 2% of the total U.S.government budget is spent on pavements.In Quebec, this accounts for 0.6% of the provincial portfolio.

We’re really focused on preserving our infrastructure rather than rebuilding,” says Jesse Delvin, director of the Vermont Transportation Agency’s Highway Safety and Design Program.In many cases, you can only put a thin layer of asphalt on a road in an average condition.”»

Same materials

“In-depth reconstructions are very rare” on Vermont roads, Delvin says.

According to the technical director at Bitume Québec, Florian Lafage, this is a completely different approach than that of the MTQ.

“They add thin layers more often, so wear and tear is never noticed.Here, there’s more urgency,” says this expert who works for an organization representing the asphalt industry.

The materials used to build the roads in Vermont are the same as those used here.Sand for the sub-base, gravel for the foundation, then asphalt (a mixture of bitumen and rock) on top.

The quality of rock and bitumen is essentially the same.Quebec asphalt companies are supplying Vermont.


But where Green Mountain State stands out is the thickness of asphalt put on the roads.

“In the case of a complete reconstruction, for a busy road, we would be around 10 inches of asphalt [254 mm],” says Delvin.

Thicker asphalt can extend the life of a road.

A 2004 MTQ document also mentioned the “economic” advantage of designing thicker pavements.”The addition of 50 mm of asphalt during initial construction increases the structural life from 15 years to 60 years,” the notice states.

Mr.Lafage pointed out that the department’s standards sometimes conflict with those of the industry.

“We always ask for the minimum,” he says, pointing out that it is not uncommon for the department to require thinner layers “for essentially budgetary reasons.

According to the design expert at the MTQ’s pavement laboratory, Guy Bergeron, the industry always wants to sell more asphalt, which is not necessarily advantageous when resurfacing.

“It’s not going to make much of a difference for the life of the road whether you put 45 mm or 65 mm on a road where there’s a cracked foot of asphalt,” he says.

Who’s telling the truth?

Vermont authorities say they apply a thick layer of asphalt (about 250 mm) on their busiest roads.What is the situation in Quebec? The versions are contradictory.

♦ Laval University Civil Engineering Department professor Guy Doré and Bitume Québec’s technical director, Florian Lafage, say that for most highways, it’s between 150 and 200 mm.

♦ The design expert at the MTQ’s pavement laboratory, Guy Bergeron, says that “in Montreal, there aren’t many of them below 300 mm.

♦ Technical documents show that last year the MTQ required the laying of 240 mm of asphalt on Highway 25 between Terrebonne and Laval.

Annual expenditure per track kilometre

Sources: Vermont Agency of Transportation, Ministère des Transports du Québec and Reason Foundation.

*Our Board of Investigation has been unable to cross-check these Reason Foundation figures

More money for New York

According to a report by the Reason Foundation, New York State puts four times as much money per lane-kilometre on its road network as the Belle Province.

But unlike Quebec and Vermont, the Empire State has a majority of highways built with concrete or with a concrete foundation and asphalt on the surface.

New York State is investing more than ever,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Glenn Blain.It is one of the oldest and most widely used networks in the country.”»

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