By Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive.
I was really looking forward to my Tuesday morning. I have been office-bound by COVID, so the prospect of getting out with our Roads Crew doing chip sealing got me rev’d up!
First, I was reminded just how big our county is. It took me nearly 45 minutes to drive from my house in Puyallup to the site. I was born and raised in Pierce County, but I had never driven on Hinkleman Road in my 59 years.
We have over 3,200 lane miles of County-maintained roads, with 1,400 lane miles of arterials. Keeping these roads well-maintained and open to serve our community and first responders, in the face of fall windstorms, winter snows, and spring floods, is the definition of “essential.”
Pavement Manager Brett Sonntag and Field Supervisor Josh Strom hosted me. You would be impressed at how much they focus on optimizing their work. I was particularly excited to be out in the field because I had seen our new chip sealing equipment in the mechanics bay at the Central Maintenance Facility last winter – now I got to see it in action.
Our new “spreader” – it takes the coated rock from the dump truck and distributes it over the roadway – was delivering on the expectations. They were going faster, with more uniform thickness, using less material, and yielding a higher quality result – win/win/win/win!
Watching the crew and all their equipment in action – the “shooter,” the spreader, the dump trucks, and the rubber-tired rollers – reminded me of a well-choreographed dance. Everything was moving at the same time and everyone knew their job. The train of equipment moves down the road “chip sealing” at about 3 miles per hour – a brisk walking pace. (Little known fact – Josh walks about 8 miles a day when supervising the chip seal crew!)
The only breaks the crew took were when they were waiting for the next load of rock to arrive –only a few minutes. On one such break, I walked up to the crew on the spreader and heard them discussing stock tips and their investments! I think they said, “Buy low, sell high!”
You may wonder how COVID has impacted the Road Crew. The Chip Seal Team is socially distant and outside when doing their work. Their challenge has been in travelling to and from the jobsite. In that case, they have reduced the number of employees in a truck to two, have plastic barriers separating the crew compartments and they wear masks. These precautions require more vehicles to transport the crew -and increased the complexity of how and where you position the trucks on a project site more that a mile long.
Not only are they more efficient and effective with their application of chip seal, but they also set a new record this year. Josh was justifiably very proud of the 10 miles of chip seal that the team put down in one day!
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