There are several large stormwater-related projects that are underway within the County. The projects are designed to increase the capacity of the storm drainage system in areas that have historically had problems during substantial storms. In an effort to be efficient with funds and to limit the number of disruptions experienced by residents, storm drainage projects are often combined with other, planned projects, such as water main upgrades and Green Street installations.
These large construction projects are disruptive. At their completion the community benefits from the upgraded infrastructure and improved service, but during construction there is the nuisance of noise, dust and the general change in daily routine as the construction equipment and materials move into the neighborhood. A sample of recent questions that have been fielded by our project managers are below.
What is the public right of way, and how do I know where my property begins and this area ends?
The public right of way is County-owned property that includes the roads, curb and gutter, sidewalk, and utility strip (the grassed area that is typically found between the sidewalk and the curb). In addition to these areas the first few feet of lawn that is adjacent to the sidewalk may also be a part of the public right of way, although this will vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. If a property owner wishes to research where exactly their property’s boundaries are located, they should begin with the Land Records Services.
Utilities are typically buried in the right of way and maintenance to those utilities will disrupt this area. If a resident has planted or installed anything in the right of way, it could be removed without notice or compensation to make way for the utility work.
Residents must obtain a permit for any work or storage that is planned for the right of way. The County’s Transportation Right of Way Permit Guide details the activities that require a County permit and the associated fees. For example, construction equipment, dumpsters and moving vans require a permit. The residential driveway apron is also found in the public right of way. Apron replacements require coordination with the County, are installed by a County crew, and payment for the work is the resident’s responsibility.
Now that construction has begun in my neighborhood, there are a lot of signs. Do we really need all of the signs?
Project alerts are sent to the civic association as well as posted to the County’s project webpages. We have learned through experience that despite these updates, many residents haven’t reviewed or may have forgotten the provided information. The signs are a method to alert residents and visitors about the impending and ongoing work. Signs are also a safety method of alerting residents to new traffic patterns.
Arlington County follows national guidance found in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for its construction signage. Produced by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), this manual provides guidance for every type of transportation signage you could think of including railroad crossing, school zones, flaggers, temporary traffic zones and much more.
FHA’s site provides a good explanation of who and how this manual is implemented nationally. Signs are positioned within the public right of way. If a resident has a concern with a sign’s location, they should contact the construction manager, who is identified on the project’s webpage, to learn if an alternative location for the sign is an option.
Why don’t we have an exact schedule of start and completion dates for different phases of the project?
When construction bid documents are prepared, many of the basic parameters of the project are specified. Design documents and overall start and end dates for the entire project are provided, but beyond that the contractor is provided quite a bit of latitude for completing the project. Why is so much flexibility provided? Because as you may have experienced with a home improvement project, there are often unexpected events during construction. The advent of GIS mapping technology is fairly new when you consider that most of the infrastructure was installed before GIS was used for local government infrastructure projects. The weather is also an unknown variable that always plays a big role in how smoothly and quickly a project progresses.
If a construction contract was too restrictive, then it would discourage any contractor from wanting to bid on the job as they are well aware of the decisions that will need to be made while working in the field. Furthermore the contractor may be able to implement some efficient options, like having two crews work at once at different locations, when they are provided with some flexibility.
Is the noisy, vibration-causing compaction necessary?
Compacted, firm soil layers around the pipe network are important. The soil physically supports the pipe. If the soil is not properly compacted, the pipe will be prone to breaking, which will necessitate re-opening the right of way to make the repair. Compacted soil is also necessary to support the street and its traffic. If the soil layers below the pavement are not properly compacted, a sinkhole can develop in the street, jeopardizing public safety and also requiring the street to be re-opened and repaired.
The soil is typically compacted with a piece of equipment called a vibratory trench roller. In order to properly complete the compaction job, there are limited options. The typical intensity of the roller can be used, which will result in more vibrations but a shorter period of time needed to complete the job. The intensity of the trench roller can be somewhat reduced by throttling down the vibration, and smaller layers of backfill used, but some vibrations will still occur and this method will take more time to complete.
I hope this Q&A has been helpful and has explained some of the “why” behind how our projects are implemented. Other stormwater and infrastructure-related posts: