Fixing US 2 near Monroe in August so we’re ready for November

by guest blogger Bronlea Mishler

Rainy weekend forecast puts fix to the test

“When we inspected the culverts last summer, they really looked like Swiss cheese – holes everywhere,” said John Tellesbo, WSDOT’s Area 3 assistant maintenance superintendent. “We’d patched a few minor sinkholes on the shoulder, but it was just a matter of time before we got a big one that could have caused a serious problem.”

Snow. Ice. Mud. Rivers of rain. When winter weather flings its worst at the northwest, it’s not just drivers that have to bear the brunt of the unpleasantness. The roads themselves take a constant beating from the elements – and that means our maintenance crews have to be on their toes to keep the highways drivable.

Crews use the dry summer months to inspect and repair the highways – everything from filling cracks and patching potholes to replacing signs and maintaining culverts. Getting all that work done in the good weather means that the highways are prepared and ready to meet the bad weather – and that’s good news if you plan to hit the road during the winter months.

While all maintenance is important, our crews give special attention to highway drainage culverts. If you’re like most drivers, you’ve probably never noticed our culverts – that is, unless something has gone wrong. Flooding, potholes, sinkholes and big dips in the road are all highway maladies that can result from clogged or damaged culverts.

Despite our best intentions – and attention – sometimes old culverts don’t make it through a winter unscathed. There’s not much maintenance crews can do in the winter when the corroded old pipes begin to fail, except patch the resulting potholes and road divots. Until recently, the stretch of US 2 near Bickford Avenue was a particular headache for maintenance crews. Five culverts cross beneath the highway, carrying stormwater to nearby detention and treatment areas. And all five of those culverts were one storm away from falling apart.

New piping in place under US 2
Fortunately for drivers – and our maintenance crews – those culverts got ripped out this summer as part of a larger project to improve the nearby Bickford Avenue intersection. Installed in their place were five new culverts made of thick, heavy, rubberized plastic to better withstand the elements.

“We’re very fortunate we fixed them when we did,” Tellesbo said. “This is one less area we have to worry about this winter – and that means our crews can be out cleaning drains and catchbasins and keeping the highways safe.”