WSDOT meets “AxMen”: Mechanized logging on I-5

by guest blogger Abbi Russell

Last Friday, one of our contractors cleared dozens of leaning, rotting and damaged cottonwood trees from alongside northbound I-5 near Kelso. He used a feller buncher to do the job, and if you’ve ever seen the History Channel show “AxMen,” you may have seen one of these beasts in action.

Feller bunchers are great big, gnarly pieces of equipment that look like backhoes with pincers instead of a bucket. A massive rotary saw lurks beneath the pincers. The equipment operator uses the pincers to grab the tree, then cuts it with the saw and moves and stacks the log, all in one fell swoop.

In six hours last Friday, the contractor cleared an area that would have taken up to two weeks if done manually. That freed up our crews to tackle other needs, such as pothole patching, slide cleanup and collision response.

The swiftness and efficiency of the feller buncher not only saves time and money, it’s a safer way to log along a busy stretch of I-5. Things are much more controlled; rather than falling when cut, logs are held in place throughout the operation. The operator is protected from falling branches by the feller buncher’s enclosed cab.

Like the hard-working loggers of “AxMen,” we’re grateful for technology that makes our jobs safer and helps us keep the everyday work of maintaining state highways from disrupting your travels.