Back to Whatcom County home page Whatcom County | Departments | Contacts |  Help |  Search
 Public Worksheader image
  Public Works  | Services  | Contact Us

   
Engineering

Road & Bridge Projects

Capital Programs
Frequently Asked Questions
Whatcom County Map pdf icon
FEMA Projects Status Report pdf icon

Design, Construction:

Bridge & Hydraulic:

Development:

Traffic:

 

Contact Us

Email:
engineering@co.whatcom.wa.us

Engineering Services
5280 Northwest Drive
Suite C
Bellingham, WA 98226
Map
(360) 676-6730
Fax: (360) 676-6558

Design & Construction and
Bridge & Hydraulic
322 N Commercial St
Suite 301
Bellingham, WA 98225
(360) 715-7450
Fax: (360) 715-7451



 
Frequently Asked Questions
ADMINISTRATION GENERAL MOVING PERMITS DEVELOPMENT INQUIRIES

TRAFFIC INQUIRIES

ADMINISTRATION GENERAL

Where is the Engineering office located?

The Engineering office is located at the Northwest Annex, 5280 Northwest Drive, Suite C, Bellingham, Washington. For directions, please see the map to the Northwest Annex. For additional information, please contact our office.

How do I obtain publications and copies from your office?

- In person at 5280 Northwest Drive, Suite C, Bellingham, Washington, Monday-Friday, 8:30 A.M.-4:30 P.M., except holidays.

- Via mail. Payment must be received before copies can be mailed. Simply call our office with your order. The cost of postage will be added to mail-in orders. Please allow 7-10 days for delivery upon receipt of payment in our office. Orders of five copies or more may take longer.

Is there a survey of my property?

The Engineering Division is the repository for all recorded surveys starting in 1972. Long plats, short plats, and binding site plans are also available and may provide useful survey information. Some historical mapping and surveying information is also available for inspection.

How can I find my property line?

Some parcels are already surveyed.  Most are not.  Property is bought and sold by deeds referencing a legal description.  The legal description is sometimes shown on a subdivision map or a record of survey, if it has been surveyed.  A new survey is provided by private land surveyors and costs from several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the size and difficulty of the parcel.

  1. Obtain a copy of the deed.
  2. Visit the County Engineer and research existing maps and surveys at the office on Northwest Drive.
  3. Try and find or recover any existing corners.
  4. Contact a Professional Land Surveyor for a survey.

How do I obtain a parcel number?

For new parcel numbers, please contact the Whatcom County Assessor at (360) 676-6790. Maps of existing parcel numbers can be obtained from the County Assessor or our office. However, you must provide either the owner’s full name or a site address in order for us to research.

How do I get access to my property?

Access from a County road or County right-of-way is by permit from the Engineering office. Construction, use, or maintenance of private easements are regulated by Whatcom County Planning and Development Services at (360) 676-6907.

What is a Revocable Encroachment Permit?

What can you tell me about an easement?

Unless easements are granted to the public, such as utilities, drainage, and other roadway facilities, and are declared or shown on a recorded subdivision, the Engineering office cannot help with easements. Easements are a private issue of title that require the original deeds and documents available from the recording section of the Auditor’s office or a title company.

What constitutes a legal ingress/egress of record?

It is an easement and/or a deed that has been created specifically for ingress/egress (access and any other uses specified). It has been acknowledged (notarized) and recorded with the County Auditor’s office.

Is there water/sewer service to my property?

Whatcom County does not provide or administer water or sewer service. Please seek assistance from the County Health Department, at (360) 676-6724, or information from the appropriate water association, district or municipality.

How do I obtain an address for my property?

The Engineering Division is the only agency that may assign addresses in unincorporated Whatcom County. To have an address assigned to your property, you must complete an application form and return it, along with the $35.00 fee, to the Engineering office. The application form is available online or by contacting the Engineering office.

What are the rules for having a road named?

Private easements that are used to access at least three homes may be eligible to be named, if all property owners agree to the change. Whatcom County requires that a private easement be named if it is used to access five homes, or if it is used to access three homes and is more than 1000 feet long. The name of the private road must be approved by Emergency Services. A Road Name Proposal application is available online or by contacting the Engineering office.

How do I find out the width of a County road?

Research is required to determine the width of the right-of-way in front of your individual property. Please provide your parcel number and any other pertinent property information.

How are County rights-of-way established?

County rights-of-way can be deeded, dedicated or established by prescriptive rights and condemnation.

Do you have any job vacancies?

Please contact Whatcom County Human Resources at

(360) 676-6802.

MOVING PERMITS

When do I need a moving permit?

Any individual, firm or corporation planning to move, transport or haul any mobile home or other structure over ten feet in width or 40 feet in length through Whatcom County on any route which consists solely of county roads and highways shall, prior to said movement or transport, obtain a permit from the Whatcom County Engineer.

What are overweight loads?

Whatcom County's definition of overweight loads is the same as for the Washington State Dept. of Transportation.

See WAC 468-38.

Who issues the oversize or overweight permits?

The Whatcom County Road Engineer is charged with the responsibility of issuing permits for oversize or overweight, non-reducible loads for travel over Whatcom County rights-of-way. Call the Engineering office at (360) 676-6730 and speak to the Engineer's designated staff person to obtain a permit.

When is a bond required?

A bond is posted if the County Road Engineer determines that the size and/or weight of the load on the proposed route could result in damage to the road and/or signs in the County rights-of-way. The bond amount is determined by the County Road Engineer.

Can the permit be issued over the phone?

In some instances the County Road Engineer, or designee, will issue a moving permit by phone. The numbered, signed permit is faxed to the mover and carried in the vehicle during the move. The County Road Engineer can require all operators to have a copy of the permit in the vehicle at all times. See WCC 10.32.050 - Contents and Display of Permit.

What are the fines for moving oversized loads or homes without a permit.

See - RCW 46.44 – Size, Weight, Load Enforcement Procedures.

DEVELOPMENT INQUIRIES

There are paint marks/flags on, or near, my property. What do they mean?

These marks may indicate a utility locate, a pending road project or survey in your area. This may be a private project such as new construction, or a city, county or state construction or mapping project. Please try to determine who is doing the work prior to calling our office. Utility locate colors indicate the presence of the following utilities:

RED – Electric

YELLOW – Gas or Oil

ORANGE – Telephone or Cable

BLUE – Water

GREEN – Sewer

WHITE – Proposed Excavation.

What is one-call utility locate service?

It is a service, which will locate underground utilities in order to prevent damage or injury. Before digging, you must call the Utilities Underground Location Center at 1-800-424-5555, or 811.

Website: www.callbeforeyoudig.com

Why is the County surveying at this location?

Survey work is conducted by the County for a variety of reasons:

  • To locate existing County right-of-way boundaries.
  • To locate lost or covered survey monumentation.
  • To perform topographic surveys of a project site in order to design improvements.
  • To layout proposed right-of-way acquisitions.
  • To establish elevations on existing or proposed County structures or facilities.
  • To establish pit inventory quantities.

What are the standards (i.e., width, slope, surfacing) for my driveway/private road?

The Engineering Division administers the Whatcom County Development Standards – Chapter 5 – Road Standards, which includes both public and private roads. Please see: Private Roads, Driveways.

Private residential driveways (one and two residential units) outside of County rights-of-way are typically reviewed by the Fire Marshal in Planning and Development Services at (360) 676-6907.

What size of easement is needed for a new development?

  • Driveways—The minimum width of an easement for driveway purposes is 30 feet.
  • Pedestrian Facilities—A minimum of a 10 foot easement is required, but may need more depending on location and use.
  • Private Roads—A 30-foot width will work for a private roadway with up to 6 users. Beyond six users, the width of the easement widens to 50 feet and 60 feet depending on the number of users and zoned land use (rural or urban).
  • Stormwater, Sanitary Sewer, and Water Lines—The easements are typically a 20-foot minimum. However, the purpose and use will establish the width. Some widths may be less than 20 feet.
  • Other Utilities—Power, cable, telephone, etc., require a minimum of a 10-foot easement, but may need more depending on the location of the easement.

The above widths may be used for submittal of a proposal to the Engineering Division. Please check with Engineering or the appropriate agency for exact widths before recording any easements.

What is a “paved apron”?

It’s a paved approach to an intersecting county road extending from the property line or a driveway approach abutting a paved public road. For details see Drawing 508.D-4, 505.E-3, 505.E-4 of the Road Standards – Chapter 5.

Do I need a culvert?

That will be determined by the Right-of-way Inspector after you have applied for a Revocable Encroachment Permit.

What size of culvert do I need?

12-inch minimum diameter, larger if drainage requires, as directed by the County Engineer – County Road Standards,

Drawing 508.D-1

What type of road do I have to construct?

It depends on what type of project you are working on, the land use zoning (urban or rural, acreage tracts or not), whether the roadway being accessed is private or public, how many homes are currently accessing the roadway, and the condition of the roadway you will be accessing (gravel, paved, required width). Other considerations are necessary such as the classification of the roadway, drainage, and the width of the ingress/egress (access) easement and/or right-of-way. The requirements of right-of-way, width of pavement and width of shoulders, etc. for urban and rural private and public roads are outlined within the Whatcom County Road Standards – Chapter 5.

What type of permit/approval do I need?

The permit required depends on your development intent. You may need several permits for one type of development activity. The list of Engineering development permits is online.

Other federal, state and local permits may be needed. Check with the local jurisdictions/districts for water and sanitary sewer hookup information. A good resource for checking what federal or state permits you may need for your development is a handbook titled “Commonly Required Environmental Permits for Washington State” and is available for viewing or downloading online at

http://apps.ecy.wa.gov/permithandbook/.

What information is needed when the Engineering Division reviews my application?

At a minimum you will need to complete a Preliminary Traffic Concurency Information form and Preliminary Stormwater Proposal form and submit them with your permit application. These forms are available online.

Why do I need to complete a Preliminary Stormwater Proposal?

Development Standards - Chapter 2 Stormwater Management requires as a minimum that a Preliminary Stormwater Proposal be submitted. The Proposal is intended to provide the County with a general overview as related to a proposed project. The information will be used to determine which regulations apply and whether to require a more detailed Stormwater Design Report.

What is percent grade?

It is a percentage that represents the slope of the ground on your site. It is the increase or decrease in height of the ground (uphill or downhill) divided by the length of your site multiplied by 100 [(number of vertical feet (up or down)/ horizontal length of hill or site) x 100]. The linked guide may also help you to determine the percent grade/slope of your site.

What is sight distance?

There are three types of sight distance: minimum stopping, minimum passing, and minimum at intersections. See Drawing 505.I

  • Minimum Stopping Distance is the distance that a driver can see an object on the roadway and safely stop before making contact. It is based on the change in percent grade (slope) and design speed of the roadway.
  • Minimum Passing Sight Distance is the distance that a driver can safely pass another vehicle and is based on the design speed of the roadway with consideration to roadway curves and intersections.
  • Minimum Sight Distance at Intersections is a distance that a driver or pedestrian can see an approaching vehicle driving on the crossroad. It is based on the design speed of the crossroad. This is the sight distance used to evaluate driveway locations.

Can I bond for the improvements?

Under some circumstances you may be able to request to post a security for certain required improvements, see the Whatcom County Development Standards Chapter 5 – Road Standards or Chapter 2 – Stormwater Management for more details. The County Engineer shall determine improvements for which securities may be posted.

  • Building Permits and Trail Permits —All improvements for safety and health must be completed before occupancy.
  • Short Plats—You may request to post a security for the roadway in order to record the plat. The roadway must be constructed before a building permit is issued on any lot.
  • Long Plats—You may request to post a security for any improvements that are not required for the subdivision to stand on its own. This means that all necessary utilities must be available. For minor items listed on a final inspection punch list, you may post a security, but the roadway must be functionally constructed before a building permit is issued on any lot.

Types of securities include: cash deposits, assigned savings, bonds, and other assurance devices as may be approved by the County Engineer. The bond is obtained through a bonding or insurance company. An assignment of savings places a hold on the agreed amount of savings within a bank savings account.

There are also two other reasons for posting a security, work to be completed (performance security) and a guarantee of completed work (maintenance security). Maintenance securities are required on all work completed on public roads and stormwater facilities. The duration is one year for work on an existing public road and two years for a new public road and/or stormwater facilities.

How are County Road Projects funded?

County road projects are principally funded by Local Funds generated via road taxes. However, the use of Local County Funds can be diminished by supplemental funds from a variety of sources. These supplemental funds are received by applying and completing a Whatcom County project with other counties’ and cities’ projects. A few of the various funding sources are Federal Bridge Replacement Funds, Federal Road Project Funds, State Transportation Improvement Board Funds, State Rural Arterial Preservation Funds and Federal Hazard Elimination Funds.

How can I make comments on the one year and six year road programs?

Both the Annual Road Program and the Six Year Transportation Improvement Program are approved by the County Council and have a mandatory public hearing process associated with them. By watching for the announcement in the Bellingham Herald on the Council's agenda, or calling the Public Works office, you can be informed of when the hearings will be held. Generally, the Six Year Transportation Improvement Program is adopted in July, and the Annual Road Program is adopted in October.

How can I request that a roadway be improved?

The Six Year Transportation Improvement Program, with its mandatory public hearing is the best way to get a project in front of the County Council and give your justification for improvement. Also, you may send a letter addressed to the County Road Engineer. Remember that a proposed project will be competing with other county projects based on traffic volumes, condition of the roadway, accident history, and proposed developments in addition to other factors.

TRAFFIC INQUIRIES

Why doesn’t Whatcom County install "Children at Play" Signs?

An often-heard neighborhood request concerns the posting of generalized warning signs with "SLOW CHILDREN AT PLAY" or other similar messages. Parental concern for the safety of children in the street near home, and a misplaced but widespread public faith in traffic signs to provide protection often prompt these requests.

Although some other jurisdictions have posted such signs widely in residential areas, studies have shown that many types of signs attempting to warn of normal conditions in residential areas have failed to achieve the desired safety benefits. If signs encourage parents and children to believe they have an added degree of protection, which the signs do not and cannot provide, a great disservice results.

Because of these serious considerations, Whatcom County does not install "Children At Play" signs on county roads. This type of sign may give children a false impression that it is safe to play in the road. It is never safe for children to play in or near the edge of the road.

Requests for speed bumps to slow down the traffic

The control of speeding in residential neighborhoods, while maintaining acceptably safe street and roadway conditions, is a wide spread concern, which requires persistent law enforcement effort. The inability of posted speed limit signs to curb the intentional violator, leads to frequent requests for installation of "speed bumps" on public roads. However, actual tests of experimental designs have demonstrated the physical inability of a speed bump to control all types of lightweight and heavyweight vehicles successfully, In fact, a soft sprung sedan is encouraged to increase speed for a better ride, while some vehicles may lose control.

Courts have held public agencies liable for personal injuries resulting from faulty designs. Increased hazard to the unwary; challenges to the daredevils; disruption of the movement of both emergency and service vehicles; and undesirable increase in noise, have led Whatcom County to not consider speed bumps as a standard traffic control device on public roads.

How are crosswalks defined and used?

Washington State law states that crosswalks exist at all intersections except where prohibited by posted signs. At any crosswalk (marked or unmarked) drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians.

Crosswalks are marked to encourage pedestrians to use a particular crossing. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) states: "Crosswalk markings should not be used indiscriminately." Studies conducted on the relative safety of crosswalks support minimal installation of marked crosswalks.

The City of San Diego studied intersections at which there were both marked and unmarked crosswalks. The results were surprising. Although 2‑1/2 times as many people used the marked crosswalks, 6 times as many accidents occurred in the marked crosswalks. Such research suggests that a marked crosswalk can give pedestrians a false sense of security. At all crosswalks, both unmarked and marked, it is the pedestrian’s responsibility to be cautious and alert while crossing.

Stop Signs

A stop sign is one of our most valuable and effective control devices when used at the right place and under the right conditions. It is intended to help drivers and pedestrians at an intersection decide who has the right-of-way.

One common misuse of stop signs is to arbitrarily interrupt through traffic, either by causing it to stop, or by causing such an inconvenience as to force the traffic to use other routes. Where stop signs are installed as "nuisances" or "speed breakers," there is high incidence of intentional violation. In those locations where vehicles do stop, the speed reduction is effective only in the immediate vicinity of the stop sign and, frequently, speeds are actually higher between intersections. For these reasons, it should not be used as a speed control device.

Well-developed, nationally recognized guidelines help to indicate when such controls become necessary. "Because the STOP sign causes a substantial inconvenience to motorists, it should be used only when warranted" - Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

What is the Federal Functional Classification of this road?

Return to the Top