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M & O Division

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Maintenance and Operations (M & O) Division

Vegetation Management

Three separate teams make up the Roadside Vegetation Management Program at Maintenance & Operations (M&O).  These teams include:  a manual brush crew, a mowingRemoving trees from road crew, and herbicide spray crew.  Although each team has their own detailed programs, they often cross over to help each other and the other section crews of M&O.

The manual brush crew consists of five to six people: a basket truck operator, a chip truck operator, one or two brush pullers, and two flaggers.  The work is generally of a preplanned maintenance program, but it always gives way to the need to address all "hazardous trees" in and next to the right-of-ways for public safety.  Because of the very hard work performed by this crew, they rotate assignments during the day to give rest to the harder positions, cutting down on the injuries and helping cross train the entire crew.  In addition to the removal of "hazardous trees", we clear the overhanging trees and limbs for the Chip Seal program in order to keep trash out of the fresh oil as the rock is applied.  We help the bridge crew clear any brush and trees that may be a problem for an upcoming project.  We do the same for culvert projects in the Drainage program, and construction projects for the Engineering Department as requested.  The care for clear vision at intersections and other sight problems is the main maintenance program.

This crew is broken down during the summer months to assist the Chip Seal program and any brushwork required during this time is done by the vegetation crew leader, with the assistance of the herbicide crew and summer help.  Big jobs are scheduled for times when the chip seal program is shut down and the crew returns to the vegetation crew.  This work is hard to measure in miles maintained due to the gaps between roadside vegetation.  However, a whole day can be spent removing one large hazardous tree and only cover a few feet.

The roadside mowing crews work on two different programs (mechanical brush cutting and roadside shoulder mowing), each covering about 1900 lane miles of maintained shoulders.

There are four full time mower operators including an additional full-time mower for winter work in Point Roberts and a part-time mower for summer work in the busy urban areas.

Fall, winter, and early spring are the season for brush cutting.  The equipment is outfitted with 21 booms on their mowers that carry a "Rotary Blade" head to chop and cut the heavy brush along the right-of-way.  We brush cut the ditches and back slopes and limb and trim trees as needed.  This program, often confused by the public as mowing in the winter, is not mowing.  This program includes snowdrift and flood control in the north farm country.  The average distance for brush cutting is about one road mile per day.

Shoulder mowingThe late spring and summer are devoted to Shoulder mowing.  Most of the units are equipped with short reach rotary blade mower decks of about 50" width.  They try to mow all 1900 lane miles approximately five times during the summer.  That is a lot of shoulder miles.  They average about 30 lane miles a day.  Each operator has his own assigned area, which he mows in a circular fashion, returning to the beginning when he reaches the end of each mowing cycle.  This eliminates the need to transport the equipment from one area to the next.  However, because he is always moving in a forward direction, he has to have his fuel and transportation pickup truck spotted ahead of him almost daily due to the many miles he covers each day.  The herbicide crew does this in the early morning when they have time due to early morning weather conditions.  The summer urban mower is the only unit that needs hauling from one urban area to the next.

The herbicide crew has many programs that they maintain besides helping the mower crew.  The entire herbicide crew includes two highly trained people and one spray truck.

There are several programs involved in vegetation management.  The most important program is the maintenance of the minimum 12-inch bare strip next to the pavement for erosion control of the road surface by preventing encroachment of grasses and weeds.  The second, three-way program covers the next zone, a 4-foot wide strip of low-growing brush and noxious weeds, treating the brush and weeds without removing the grass, which serve as a filter for road surface water runoff.  The third program, dormant brush winter program keeps small trees and blackberries back from the road edge.  Other programs include a signpost treatment, guardrail treatment, noxious weeds outside the second zone, and other special programs for construction projects.

Due to the seven-day advance-posting requirement on the herbicide program, hundreds of road miles are racked up traveling back and forth at least four times to each treated road.  One trip to post the road, one to spray the road, one to re-date the posting that the road has been sprayed & when it was sprayed, and one trip to remove the posting sign 30 days later.  Because of this posting program, many miles of road have to be posted in advance.

With the exception of the service worker 1 that rotates for training, our crew has been in place for almost ten years and we are very proud of both.