FAQ - Operations

Minor Betterments

Q.
How do I know how a particular candidate ranks?

A. The minor betterment candidate list is not sorted by priority. Each year, the Minor Betterment Committee reviews the entire candidate list and selects projects based on a number of factors that influence the selection process. However,eligible candidates stay on the list until the project is built or the situation prompting the improvement is mitigated.
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Q.
How do minor betterment candidates make it on the list?

A. Anyone can submit a proposal to have a location added to the list. An easy-to-use form is available online but submissions can also be turned using e-mail, fax, regular mail, or even a phone call.
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Q.
What are some examples of typical minor betterment projects?

A. Short pieces of sidewalk or patch construction that usually connect existing facilities, ADA ramp construction, minor road widenings and sight distance improvements are the most common types of projects built.
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Q.
Who determines the scope of each project?

A. Staff from the County's Operations and Mainenance Division performs an initial project scoping that includes what work to perform and what the estimated cost may be. If the candidate is selected by the committee for further review, a more detailed analysis is performed by the engineering staff to provide an in-depth assessment of the work to be performed.
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Paving

Q.
How can rural residents get their gravel road paved?

A. With over 250 miles of gravel roads in Washington County’s road maintenance inventory, the county cannot fund the cost of paving them all. Outside funding is needed to pay for this work. Assuming your road is not on the gravel road upgrade list where the county covers the cost, the neighborhood or a group must pay for it. Here are some specific issues and questions that should be considered.

First, as an alternative, you can elect to have a dust abatement product applied. This is a relatively low cost treatment that is usually done by a contractor. Last year’s costs (2009) were about $1 per running foot for an average 18- to 20-foot-wide road. The durability or life expectancy of the product, usually lignin sulfonate, is affected by rain after it is applied and the amount of traffic using the road. Under ideal conditions, dust abatement may last the entire season.

If dust abatement won’t work or if the annual cost just doesn’t make good economic sense, you may want to consider a paving project. Paving can be either a chip seal or hot-mix, it can be done through a local improvement district or as a cooperative project, and it can be done by or through the county or by you acquiring a right-of-way permit and hiring an approved contractor.

A local improvement district (LID) is the method most commonly used to pave a gravel road. Washington County adopted the LID process in Chapter 3.20 of the Washington County Code. It is petition based (the county prepares the petition, the neighborhood representative is responsible for gathering the signatures) and it requires a total of five Board of Commissioners meetings to finalize a project. The advantage of an LID is that, while it only takes a majority of the benefiting parties to approve the project, everyone pays their fair share. Another very attractive advantage is that payment can be made over a ten-year period. The disadvantage is that it is a long process; the petition needs to be completed by December for the project to be considered for the following summer’s work program. It also costs a little more for the establishment of the LID. Finally, it may tend to alienate the neighbors who don’t want the project but are forced to participate.

A cooperative project is much simpler and less time consuming than an LID. It is typically used when there is one or just a few individuals that are interested in a project. It requires that the estimated cost of the work be collected and deposited in an account with Washington County prior to any work starting. Commitments of this type typically need to be made to the county by March in order for us to get it on our work program for construction that year.

The next choice is the surfacing material. In most cases, a chip seal (also known as a bituminous surface treatment or as an oil mat) is the preferred alternative. It is comprised of three layers of closely controlled amounts of oil and rock. While not classified as a structural component, it is common in the county, especially on low volume (less than 300 to 400 vehicles per day) and light use (few trucks). Last year’s costs (2011) were $15.00 per square yard, or about $150,000 per mile, with preparation costs separate.

An asphalt concrete (hot mix) surface provides a higher level of service than a chip seal, usually has a better look, and is approximately two to three times as costly. It may be considered as a better choice by the neighborhood or may be required because of the amount of traffic anticipated.

Finally, the neighborhood can elect to have the county do the work (chip seal); hire their own contractor to apply a chip seal, subject to county construction standards; have the county add their paving onto the annual county overlay contract; or hire their own contractor working according to the county specifications.

So, there are four sets of choices to be made:

1. LID or COOP
2. Chip seal or hot mix asphalt
3. County or Contract
4. County management or the neighborhood acts as a "prime
  contractor."

For 80 to 90 percent of these types of projects undertaken in Washington County, the work is done as an LID, a chip seal is applied, with Washington County doing the work and serving as the prime contractor.

Hopefully, this summary of what you need to know and consider if you are thinking about having your gravel road upgraded has been helpful to you.

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss a particular project, please contact Victoria Saager, Management Analyst II, at victoria_saager@co.washington.or.us or at (503) 846-7616.
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Q.
How do you choose which roads to pave?

A. Our engineers look for certain conditions on the road surface before deciding what to do and when to do it. Loss of aggregate, certain types of cracking and other signs of stress are good indicators of what’s going on beneath the pavement, as well as the surface condition. We use sophisticated computer software that considers each road’s condition, prior maintenance history, and traffic loads to help us evaluate the most cost-effective treatment. Then, of course, we look at available funding, other projects in the area that might impact the road, and throw in a good dose of common sense. Since there are always more roads to pave than money to pave them, we wind up with a solid list of worthy candidates every year.
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Q.
My neighborhood street is in worse shape than my neighbor’s street, but you paved his and didn’t do anything to mine! Why?

A. We spend a large portion of our budget on preventive maintenance. This makes good economic sense because a dollar spent on road maintenance today can save $5 on future maintenance costs. Most likely your street is already beyond the "quick fix" stage and will require more extensive (and expensive) repairs. We’ll get to it, but it may be another year or so. We do keep a "wish list" though, so don’t be shy - give us a call or e-mail us!

Q.
My rural local road is in terrible shape but instead of fixing it you paved the main road that had nothing wrong with it! Why?

A. Many years ago the Board of County Commissioners recognized that we do not receive sufficient revenue to meet the needs of our entire transportation system, so they set up a priority ranking system. The strategy is to maintain the heavily traveled roads that most of us use every day to move people and freight from one part of the county to another. Local neighborhood roads are given the lowest priority for repair.

The main roads carry heavy loads - trucks, busses and thousands of cars every day. Without regular maintenance they quickly deteriorate, affecting residents, emergency service providers and commerce. On the other hand local roads are used primarily by adjacent residents. Even when these roads fall into disrepair, they rarely present a safety issue and have minimal impact on the overall health of the transportation system.

Q.
What is a Chip Seal?

A. Chip sealing is a preventive maintenance treatment that preserves the road surface and extends the life of the road. During the chip seal process, layers of emulsified asphalt and rock chips are placed on the road. A final layer of sand fills in voids and provides a smoother road surface. Bicyclists are advised to avoid roads during and immediately after chip sealing. After a few months the surface looks very similar to a paved hot mix asphalt surface.

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Q.
What is a machine patch?

A. A new layer of asphalt is placed on sections of the road, perhaps leaving some gaps depending on condition. First a layer of liquid asphalt or tack coat is sprayed on the road. Next, fabric may be placed on any badly broken areas for added strength. Finally hot asphaltic concrete is applied, raked and rolled to a prescribed density. Work moves quickly and you can drive on the new asphalt as soon as the rolling is complete. The work must be done when the ground is dry and reasonably warm.

Q.
What is a Slurry Seal?

A. A thin mix of liquid asphalt and fine aggregate is placed on the street as a preventive maintenance measure. If needed, the street will be patched and cracks sealed in the weeks prior to seal coat application. When the slurry seal is applied it may be brown, but gradually dries to black. You can drive on it after it solidifies in 4 to 6 hours. The work must be done during warm, dry weather.

Q.
What is an asphalt overlay?

A. A new layer of asphalt is placed on the road, making it look brand new. First a layer of liquid asphalt or tack coat is sprayed on the road. Next, fabric may be placed on any badly broken areas for added strength. Finally hot asphaltic concrete is applied, raked and rolled to a prescribed density. Work moves quickly and you can drive on the new asphalt as soon as the rolling is complete. The work must be done when the ground is dry and reasonably warm.

Q.
Why are you paving local roads in the urban areas of the county, but not the rural areas?

A. A. In 1994 voters in the unincorporated areas of the county voted to fund a special taxing district, the Urban Road Maintenance District (URMD), with property taxes. URMD receives $2.1 million annually to provide paving and other routine road maintenance on neighborhood streets. Prior to URMD funding many Washington County neighborhood streets were full of potholes. Since 1994 the condition of these roads significantly improved, and we’re now focusing our efforts on preventative maintenance.

Permit

Q.
Do I need a permit to drive an over-weight or over-sized load on a county road?

A. A. Yes. You need a Transportation Permit to drive an over-weight or over-sized load on any county road. Give us a call at (503) 846-7623 and we’ll help you plan your route to avoid weight-limited bridges and roads, and get you to your destination safely with minimal damage to the road.

Q.
Do I need a permit to work in the right-of-way?

A. A: Yes. Depending on what you want to do, you will probably need to obtain a Right-of-Way Permit or a Utility Permit. You may also need a permit if you are doing work that blocks the road or limits access to adjacent properties. Examples of work that typically require a permit are adding or repairing a driveway, sidewalk, storm drain, sewer line, or water line. Call (503) 846-7623 or e-mail lutops@co.washington.or.us to request a permit application.
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Roads

Q.
How can I get my road repaired?

A. Call (503) 846-ROAD (846-7623). We take requests for road surface, drainage, bridge and vegetation maintenance. We also repair traffic signs, signals, pavement markings and street lights. Give us a call and if we can fix it, we will. If not, we’ll tell you why. You can also reach us by email at lutops@co.washington.or.us or letter at 1400 SW Walnut Street, MS 51, Hillsboro, OR 97123.
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Q.
What can I do about dust on my gravel road?

A. A dust abatement permit is issued to residents of Washington County who want to have a private company apply liquid dust control on the road adjacent to their property. There is no charge for the permit; however, you must pay a private company to apply the dust abatement treatment. Washington County requires a permit so that the condition of the road and the maintenance schedule can be checked prior to dust abatement treatment.

DO NOT PUT USED MOTOR OIL ON THE ROAD. State and federal authorities regulate the types of products that can be used on the road to prevent environmental damage. Violation can result in substantial fines.

For more information about abatement call (503) 846-7623 or e-mail lutops@co.washington.or.us.
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Q.
What is "Adopt-a-Road"?

A. Adopt-a-Road is a volunteer program for citizens who want to help keep Washington County clean by picking up litter along county roads. There are currently over 100 businesses, organizations and families who participate in this popular program. Interested? We ask you to make a two-year commitment to keep a one-mile stretch of road clean by scheduling a clean-up event at least twice a year. In return we install two signs with your group’s name on "your" adopted road. We provide all supplies, including safety equipment and trash bags. We also pick up and dispose of the bagged trash when you’re done. Give us a call at 503-846-ROAD (846-7623) and we’ll send you some additional information.
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Q.
Where do I pick up Adopt-a-Road equipment?

A. 1400 SE Walnut Street, Hillsboro (behind Winco). The warehouse entrance is on the east side of the facility...right there! Please call 503-846-ROAD (846-7623) if you have questions.

Utilities

Q.
Who do you "Call Before You Dig?"

A. If you plan to dig, contact the Oregon Utility Notification Center (OUNC) toll free at (800) 332-2344. This is an invaluable free service to prevent accidents related to buried utility lines and facilities. The OUNC notifies member utilities operating in the proposed excavation area to locate and mark their underground facilities.