Seasonal roads on PEI: frequently asked questions
Each year, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure receives a variety of inquiries about the Island’s unpaved roads – such as shale or clay roads.
Under the Province’s Roads Act, every road in Prince Edward Island has a designated classification.
The classification of a road determines the level of maintenance it receives.
There are 1,500 kms of provincially maintained unpaved roads on PEI, with approximately 1,050 kms of those roads classified as seasonal.
With the help of the department’s Director of Highway Maintenance, we compiled some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) government receives about our Island’s seasonal roads.
What is a seasonal road?
A seasonal road is a road that is considered open from May 1 to October 31. Typically, that’s when the department maintains those roads – depending on the kind of winter we’ve had or the weather in the spring.
If we had a rainy spring or a lot of snow melt from the winter, we sometimes can’t open up seasonal roads till mid-May and sometimes we might maintain them till mid-November.
Why aren’t these roads maintained all year long?
Seasonal roads aren’t built to the same standard and don’t have the same strength as year-round roads. They can’t support a plow or even support vehicles on them year-round, so they’re not classified or meant for wintertime usage.
I live on a clay road that gets muddy and ruts in the spring. Why can’t it get scraped or graded as soon as the snow melts?
Even if the bottom of a clay road is hard, it can’t be graded until it’s dried out. Scraping off that muddy top layer would expose the layer beneath that’s still dry or hard. And as soon as a bit of rain hits it, the water penetrates down farther, wrecking the base.
Think of it like a bucket of dirt. If it’s wet on top and you start mixing it around, all the dirt will get soft and muddy.
I bought land on a seasonal clay road and I want to build my home there. What do I have to do to get year-round maintenance?
The road would have to be built to a standard that enables the department to maintain it. Staff would take a look at the road and determine what’s needed to upgrade the road to a standard that would support a plow. Those costs are the responsibility of the landowner.
Can I just plow the road myself?
Some property owners who choose to live on seasonal roads year-round pay for their road to get plowed by a private contractor in the wintertime. Those landowners have to get permission from the department and sign appropriate waivers to allow that.
Can the department put gravel or asphalt millings on all the clay roads so they can be maintained year-round?
Right now, the department maintains about 4,450 kms of roads and 1,500 kms of unpaved roads. Adding even 100 meters of road to that for maintenance year-round would come at a significant cost. Between adding material to the road, plowing and sanding operations, as well as rising fuel costs, it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain these roads year-round, every year.
Why not just pave all the roads?
The intent of the Highway Maintenance paving program is to add approximately two inches of asphalt to existing paved roads. The cost to pave an unpaved road is significant due to the cost of the work prior to paving (i.e. addition of shale/gravel, ditching, tree clearing) and the fact that unpaved roads require four inches of asphalt. This type of work impacts the amount of overall paving the division can accomplish within its budget.
Paving costs have risen 55% over the past three years and the department’s budget has been set to maintain the current number of paved roads PEI already has. Adding 1,500 kms of unpaved roads to that total of paved roads would come with a significant price tag and take decades to complete.
Outside of the Highway Maintenance paving program, the division maintains PEI’s current paved roads through its patching operations.
Who can I call if I have a highway maintenance issue?
Each county has its own dispatch office that anyone can call.
Queens County: 902-368-4770
Kings County: 902-652-8960
Or you can send a text to one of the numbers below. Feel free to send a photo along with it. That helps staff prepare to address any highway maintenance situation.
Queens County: 902-200-6649
Kings County: 902-200-2122