Most Common Road Maintenance Issues
Wildlife/vehicle contact is frequent and Spokane County will remove animal carcasses if they are on the public right-of-way. We will only remove non-domestic animals. Deer, raccoons, porcupines, and skunks are some examples of non-domestic animals. For domestic animal removal, please contact Spokane County Animal Control at 509/477-2532. If the animals have been very recently killed, the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council may be interested in meat donations. They can be reached at 509/487-8552 for possible pickup.
Residing in the rural areas of the county is appealing because there are fewer people. With that comes the increased chance of encountering nature. For more information on the benefits and disadvantages of living in a rural area, please reference the Code of the West.
Ditches & Culverts
In an effort to minimize the destructive potential of stormwater runoff and spring thawing, many roads have a series of ditches and culverts surrounding them. The water that flows through these structures carry silt, foliage, and other debris along with it. The accumulation of this debris in ditches, flash flooding and other natural disasters can cause erosion underneath the road base, or flooding out onto the roadway surface depending on the topography of the area making the road nearly impassable. When culverts become plugged, water will tend to pool out onto the roadway, and possible wash out the road or driveway approach. Spokane County will clean out the culvers and re-establish the ditches on county right-of-ways as necessary. Since there are limited resources available this work is done on a worst-first basis. Even though the ditches are somewhat cluttered, the work may not be done immediately.
In the more urban/residential areas of the county where ditching and culvert systems are not feasible, we rely on drywells to advert possible flooding problems. Drywells are underground chambers that collect surface water and disperse it deep into the ground. On the surface, they just appear to be a manhole or grate. Usually the area surrounding the drywell is sloped, so that the water will gravitate toward it. When leaves or pine needles cover this grate, the water will not be able to enter the drywell and pooling will result. These grates need to be kept clear of yard waste in order to function properly. Occasionally drywells become filled with silt, petroleum-based materials, and other debris that prevents them from adequately discharging the water back into the natural filtering system of the ground. When this happens during wet weather a persistent puddle will form in the area around the manhole cover. Spokane County has specialized equipment called Vactor trucks, these trucks are similar to a large vacuum. They are used to pump the foreign materials out of the drywell. The drywell will normally resume its original function once it has been cleaned. We can all do our part in helping to keep these drywells operating efficiently by sweeping any leaves or pine needles off of the grate and not dumping any petroleum products or other waste liquids into these receptacles. For additional information, please reference the Stormwater Utility site.
Grading & Graveling
More than 45% of Spokane County's roads are still gravel. Most of these roads are graded four (4) times a year. This service is determined by many factors; traffic volume, traffic speed, slope of road, effects of weather, and subsurface conditions. The more heavily traveled roads will need grading more often than those with less traffic. Usually gravel roads are graded twice in the spring to remove chuckholes, and then again in the fall to blade up the wash boarded surface. During the dry summer months, the necessary moisture is not present to allow us to grade properly-within a few days the road will become wash boarded again. In the winter we cannot blade these types of roads because of the frozen condition. If homeowners would like information regarding having their section of a gravel road paved through a Road Improvement District process please call 509/477-3600 or by email to: Request for Information.
Potholes/Asphalt Breaking Up
Potholes are for the most part a function of water infiltrating the subgrade. When water that has managed to infiltrate the paved surface freezes it expands as it freezes and forms ice. The pressure exerted from this process starts to break up the asphalt in the surrounding area, allowing for even more water to enter once the ice melts. After a series of freezing and thawing cycles, the surface will break apart and a pothole will develop. During the winter months the hot mix asphalt plants are shut down due to the cooler temperatures making the use of a cold weather asphalt mix necessary. The patches done with this material sometimes fail. They are then replaced later in the year as hot mix is made available by the asphalt plants.
Shrubs, Trees, & Weeds
Vegetation along the right-of-way can inhibit visibility at intersections. This presents an obvious danger that needs to be rectified. Dead, dying or damaged trees also need to be removed because they can fall or drop limbs. Roads are also more likely to remain free from ice if the sun can shine directly on them in the winter. Our maintenance department performs brushing, clearing, and tree trimming services as needed. We also have a herbicide crew which operates during the spring and summer months that sprays noxious weeds in the right-of-way.
Signs, Signals, & Striping
In addition to the road maintenance department, Spokane County also has a sign shop and a signal shop. The sign crew manufactures all of the road signs that are posted along county roads. If there is a sign missing, damaged, vandalized, or incorrect, we can put in a work order to have a new one made and replaced. This same crew also paints the stripes and markings on the roadway surfaces. Come springtime when the weather allows, the faded paint will be refreshed.
We have a separate traffic signal crew that ensures that our traffic signals are functioning properly. If there is a situation where the traffic signals are not working and there are other unlit traffic signals or streetlights in the area, this is most likely indicative of a power outage. The local power supplier (Avista, Inland Power & Light, etc.) would need to be notified. The placement of street lamps, which provide illumination for streets and intersections, is determined by Spokane County. Once installed these lights are maintained by the local power company.
Snowplowing & Sanding
Spokane County's maintenance department provides snow and ice control for all county roads. Snow removal is organized by the following priority system.
- Major arterial routes.
- Secondary and collector arterials.
- Hillside residential areas.
- Other rural access roads and residential streets.
When the roads are plowed the snow must be plowed completely to the curb line to insure mail delivery and to insure that water can reach drains. Trucks providing traction sand usually follow the plows. A liquid deicing solution instead of sand may be applied to the more heavily traveled arterials. Liquid deicer is used in an effort to minimize the amount of dust particles in our air.
Street cleaning is the final phase of our winter maintenance program. The sand and gravel that we apply to icy roads is removed because of the dust and traction problems it creates once the ice and snow is gone. Normally this is started in the early spring when overnight temperatures stay above freezing. The process is completed in mid summer. Street cleaning crews usually consist of four (4) street sweepers and one (1) water flusher. The first step is to flush material from the road over to the edge of the road in order to remove the material with the least number of sweeping passes. The material must also be kept damp during the sweeping operation to eliminate dust. Sweeping services are arranged according to the same priority system as the snow removal.