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Maintenance and Operations (M & O) Division

Roadway Maintenance

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 Road maintenance 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 projects.

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 (33%).

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 asphalt.

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.