Structures Section - the bridge crew, maintains the bridges,
guardrails, seawalls, bulkhead retaining walls, and ferry
docks in Whatcom County. This seven-person crew includes
two heavy equipment operators and five truck driver/laborers
who work with various types of equipment ranging from a shovel
to a 25-ton crane and an 18-ton boom truck.
By mandate, every bridge (151 at last count) is inspected
bi-annually. Public Works Engineering inspects the structures, then
prepares a report describing the maintenance work M&O needs to
perform. Working with the inspector, M&O decides the best course
of action (replacement or repair) and who will perform the work
(private contractors or the M&O crew).
Scheduling of structure repairs or replacement includes permit
acquisition and determination of the "fish window" as
most structures provide access to upstream habitat for native
fish species. A "fish window", usually June 15 - September
30, may be the only opportunity to rebuild or replace bridges
or complete any other major repair or replacement projects.
M&O works closely with the county's habitat biologist and
state or federal fish and wildlife personnel to acquire the necessary
permits. The identification and relocation, if necessary, of
all power, phone, gas lines, and any other utility lines occurs
in cooperation with the local utilities. This is becoming more
of a challenge every year as the major utilities centralize their
offices either out of town or even out of Washington State.
Bridge maintenance is also responsible for the crack-sealing
program, coordinating with Engineering to eliminate any unnecessary
work or conflicts with upcoming major projects. Bridge maintenance
also coordinates with the other M&O crews paying particular
attention to the chip-seal road list.
There are a number of different standards and types of guardrails
currently in use. An inventory of guardrail is maintained by
location, length, type, and condition.
The ferry docks require a yearly inspection and occasionally, an
emergency repair project.