Whatcom County Maintenance & Operations Roadway Maintenance
maintains the county road system by preventing, reducing, or restoring
deterioration of the roadway infrastructure through road surface
and roadway structure management. Work items include surface
patching, depth patching, chip seal, asphalt pre-level, crack
sealing, snow and ice removal, garbage pick-up, dust control,
blading gravel roads, cleaning and sweeping roadways, shoulder
work, and various pavement maintenance techniques.
There are 974 county road miles within Whatcom County. The annual
road maintenance program identifies specific stretches of roadway
each year and every seven years, undertakes a specific maintenance
program for each road.
The Chip Seal Program provides a bituminous surface treatment
(BST) to maintain and extend longevity for the county roadway
system. Based on a seven-year cycle with 95-100 road miles impacted
annually, Chip Seal acts as a key to many other M&O maintenance
activities, such as shoulder rehabilitation, vegetation and shoulder
Planning and coordination with the Engineering Division assures
non-duplication of surface treatments with rebuild projects. Each
year, M&O meets with Engineering to review road-rating data for
future planning and provide data required by the County Road
Administration Board (CRAB).
The Asphalt Pre-level program provides the proper grade, strength,
and stability to roadway surfaces and precedes BST. The annual
application program might include 26,000 tons of G type asphalt
mix employing both private contractors (66%) and county forces
Maintenance & Operations works closely with the Equipment
Rental & Replacement (ER&R) division of Public Works to
develop contract data and language. They also work with the Finance
Department's Purchasing Division for contracts requiring use of
the public bid process. The Engineering Division of Public Works
provides specifications as well as survey support for monument
offset marking. Even the Whatcom County ferry system can be involved
with M&O when the 20 miles of roadways on Lummi Island undergo
upgrade or maintenance. One contract for Lummi Island roadway
maintenance could require 500 truck trips hauling 6300 tons of
Shoulder maintenance and rehabilitation is an intricate part
of road maintenance and provides additional challenges involving
the Endangered Species Act and protection of habitat and area
drinking water. Great care is required and the use of best management
practices paramount when working next to habitat and considering
water runoff target zones. The main direction is to provide shoulder
stability, creation of a smooth transition from roadway surface
to shoulder, and coordination with other road maintenance projects.
Many of the M&O road maintenance procedures prevent hazardous
materials, silt, and sand from entering waterways. One such program
is the sweeping and cleaning of the roadway using a capture or
side cast power broom. The process will also improve vehicle
traction on the paved surfaces and bicycle passage on paved shoulder
areas. The Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish watersheds will benefit
from the use of a new, high efficiency, vacuum type power broom.
Where would we be without the tireless storm response by the
road crew, removing tons of snow and ice from county roads? A
proactive customer service policy in dealing with sanding and
snow and ice removal has been implemented with the assistance
of ER&R and Engineering staff during severe snow events.
Being conscious of habitat protection, a chemical anti-icing program
will be initiated lowering the use of salt/sand mix, especially
in watersheds. Engineering also assists with road restrictions
by monitoring the frost depth equipment.
All traditional maintenance activities and budgets will need
to be reviewed with attention to the changing regulatory environment.
The challenges of ESA and the Clean Water Act will require careful
thought leading to long-range planning goals. Quality training
is also necessary to raise the level of awareness to achieve success
in reaching these long-term goals. Support from policy makers
will also be a significant factor as to the level of success as
we transition towards a new regulatory environment.