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Public Works Department
Road Maintenance Division

This division of the Public Works department is responsible for maintaining the County transportation system. The Division is split between the three major islands with crews and equipment sufficient to act independently in emergencies and for normal maintenance. In addition to the 7 member crew on each of the three major islands, there are two part-time employees on Waldron Island and one part-time employee on Shaw Island.

In the past, the County road system was maintained to much lower standards than current requirements. There were not as many vehicles or trucks hauling heavy loads as there are today. The public need for access to public and private property was limited; for example, gravel roads were acceptable. In the last 20 years increased speeds and an all-weather surface have resulted in seal coating many roads

Most of the roads in the County system have just evolved. Roads were built with little or no load design or drainage, and are in poor condition requiring more maintenance. A program for reclaiming these roads has been established and is accomplished as budgeting allows. Since 1994, this involved adding cement and lime to reclaimed roads, substantially increasing the strength of the finished product. Reclaiming is scheduled annually for repair to severely damaged roads. Grading of gravel roads is schedule for spring and fall, and during the winter if the weather allows. Seal Coating is scheduled for summer application of 20 to 30 miles annually. Asphalt overlays are done in the summer to strengthen existing asphalt surfaces. Asphalt pre-leveling is done prior to seal coating. Potholes are patched on an as-needed basis all year. We anticipate demands for maintenance will increase as population, vehicle volumes and loads increase, and the business community expands.

The County crew on San Juan Island maintains 73 miles of seal coated roads, 15.05 miles of County gravel roads and 8.5 miles of asphalt paved roadway on San Juan Island and 4.14 miles of gravel roadway on Stuart Island.

The County crew on Orcas Island maintains 60 miles of seal coated roads, 26.57 miles of gravel roads and 2 miles of asphalt roads on Orcas Island and 3.8 miles of gravel roadway on Waldron Island.

The County crew on Lopez Island maintains 55.5 miles of seal coated roads and 12.5 miles of gravel roads on Lopez Island; 11.5 miles of seal coated roads and 2.37 miles of gravel roads on Shaw Island; and 6.7 miles of gravel roadway on Decatur Island.

Dust treatment is applied in the spring to heavily traveled gravel roads on San Juan, Orcas, Lopez, and Decatur Islands. The roads must be graded prior to dust treatment.

Utility Inspections

Utility inspections are performed on the five islands served by utilities, to determine the best location for the utility, to insure that the completed work meets specifications, and that work is complete. The utility permit application is reviewed by a Utility Inspector prior to installation for location, and after completion for conformance to County requirements.

Storm Drainage

Ditching is done at locations to be seal coated prior to seal coating and in problem areas. Material is excavated or bladed onto the adjacent roadway, picked up and loaded into trucks to be hauled off site.

Bridges under 20' are repaired as needed, they are inspected by the Engineering Department on a scheduled basis, and random inspections are made by supervisors to insure their integrity.

Culverts are repaired, removed, and replaced as needed. There are several replaced each year, as most of the existing culverts have been in place many years and are deteriorating. New culverts are placed in areas where they can solve water accumulation problems.

Traffic Control

Driveway permits are reviewed by supervisors prior to installation for location, and after completion for conformance to County requirements. Gravel sidewalks have edges mowed periodically and the gravel surface is inspected and repaired when necessary. Special purpose paths are inspected by supervisors and are maintained on an as-needed basis.

Snow is plowed and roads are sanded during and after snow storms. Sand is applied to roads during periods of ice and frost. Roads are swept after sanding for snow and ice. The roads, areas designated as bicycle paths, and intersections are swept periodically during the summer season.

Signs are replaced when vandalized. Posts are replaced when damaged. Work is performed on an as-needed basis. Sign maintenance, cleaning, and straightening is performed on an as-needed basis.

Roadside Development

Cutting, chipping, and burning is performed during the wet season. Problem areas are identified and chipping or burning of brush and trees is selected by the supervisors. Mowing is a spring and summer task. This is started in the spring as soon as weather allows and continues throughout the summer. Brush whacking is scheduled in the spring and fall after the foliage has dropped from trees and berry bushes. Guard rails are repaired on an as-needed basis. Road kills are picked up by crews when notified by the Sheriff's Department or by private individuals. Fencing is done on an as-needed basis.

Ancillary Operations

Docks and floats are inspected periodically by the Engineering Department and regularly by supervisors and crew members. Tightening fasteners in docks and floats is scheduled annually for spring and fall. Other maintenance is done on an as-needed basis. Boat ramps are inspected and debris removed from the ramps on an as-needed basis. This includes fabricating concrete ramp logs, transporting and installing them. Repairs to the ramps regularly. Flood control is performed when necessary during inclement weather.


Safety meetings are scheduled monthly at the road maintenance shops. A quarterly meeting is attended by all Public Works designated staff safety personnel, and semi-annual meetings with all Public Works employees are held in the spring and fall.

Training is provided for Public Works employees. Employees are sent to various locations to seminars that cover a variety of subjects related to the operation of the Public Works Department. Training is also provided by professionals teaching operation of equipment at County facilities with County equipment.