Follow a week in the life of a WSDOT night bridge crew
By Danielle Holstein
When a concerned commuter noticed a large pothole on an I-5 bridge in Federal Way, WSDOT was her first call. And when our overnight bridge maintenance crews received the report, they were ready to mobilize. Night crews champion the important preventative maintenance that keeps our highways safe. Although they tend to issues all over the Puget Sound region, few understand how much work they actually get done in a night.
What is preventative maintenance?
The state's infrastructure requires careful monitoring and care to ensure a long lifespan. Night bridge crews are the unsung heroes of the preventative maintenance world. Working demanding 10-hour shifts, they maintain and repair our bridges to try to prevent bigger problems later. Crews repair potholes, fix expansion joints, clean graffiti and trash, and install signs to keep highways in tip-top shape, among their many tasks.
|Inspecting and repairing expansion joints is one of the main jobs our overnight bridge maintenance crews do.|
...and what isn't preventative maintenance?
Preventative maintenance should not be mistaken for problem-free roadways – we wish! No matter how carefully we tend to our highways, infrastructure will inevitably age and require replacement. When thinking about maintenance, highways might be likened to a car: no matter how often you clean it, check it, and take it in for regular repairs, the car can't last forever. But by paying attention to that check engine light, you can give any vehicle a longer and safer life.
|Whether it’s filling potholes, fixing cracks or repairing expansion joints, our overnight|
maintenance staff stay busy keeping our roadways safe.
How do crews perform preventative maintenance?
Here's a view of a week's work with a WSDOT night bridge crew
Crews headed out to perform "mobile operations" on the Ship Canal Bridge. This means that they created a moving work zone, tending to several potholes scattered all over the roadway. These dangerous holes were filled with an asphalt product that creates a safe cover until permanent repair work can be performed.
Every bridge is able to expand and contract with changing temperatures because of giant metal expansion joints. When a broken joint unexpectedly pops out into the roadway, it can cause some serious snarl. After a driver report earlier in the day, night crews were quick to check out the scene and make emergency repairs.
WSDOT night crews work tirelessly to keep highways free of graffiti. Wednesday was dedicated to such a cleanup of the Seattle express lanes – an issue WSDOT tackled after receiving your feedback.
Thursdays are sometimes dedicated to emergency repairs. This week, things were a little more peaceful: crews spent the evening prepping materials and tools for next week's operations. Crews are ready for the new week and any emergencies it might bring.
Over the week, night crews replaced three header joints across three lanes. That's 135 feet of repair! Additionally, they filled 15 potholes and cleaned 1,000 square feet of graffiti. That's a pretty busy week of repairs – and each is essential in keeping our highways safe.
|Working at night near traffic can be dangerous, and our crews count on drivers|
helping by slowing down and paying attention.
Our heroes need your help
Night crews do a ton to keep our highways safe and ready for the next morning's commute. Because they work in the dark of night, it is important for drivers to be extra mindful as they head past a work zone. By slowing down, keeping a safe distance from the car ahead, and being alert, drivers can help protect the crews that protect our highways.