The in basket: The over-staffed road project, commonly
symbolized by someone leaning on a shovel, is so much a part of
modern lore that I wasn’t surprised when my wife, The Judybaker,
came home one recent day and said she’d seen it again at Mile Hill
Drive and Woods Road, near our home.
When I drove past the crew twice in the next few days, I noticed
that they were replacing the worn turn arrows, stop bars and
crosswalk lines at Woods and Long Lake roads. Sure enough, there
were six employees both times, and two or three didn’t seem to be
doing anything at that moment.
They were Kitsap County crews, and I asked what the job
assignments were and what required six people.
The out basket: Jeff Shea, county traffic engineer, supplies the
“Our markings crew is made up of one permanent employee, and
five to seven participants in our college summer help program,” he
said, referring me to the online site
www.kitsapgov.com/pw/summer_students.htm to learn more about it.
Among the information is that there are 55 such jobs paying between
$9.47 and $12.87 an hour.
“We no longer use painted markings,” Jeff continued. “All of our
arrows, crosswalks, and stop lines are now applied with a durable
material called thermoplastic. Thermoplastic markings last
longer than paint. The end result is less frequent maintenance. It
stands up to traffic much better.
“The application process for the thermoplastic is totally
different then the painting process. The process is labor-intensive
and we look for ways to maximize the potential of each work
“At large multi-lane intersections, we commonly use six
employees and two work vehicles to replace pavement markings.
During the set-up phase, two to three employees use one vehicle to
set up traffic control signs. The remaining employees use the other
vehicle to ‘cone off’ traffic lanes and turn the traffic signal to
an all-way stop flashing red.
“The employees remain in two groups. One group uses
a grinder to remove the old markings. As they are doing that, the
second group is marking out and installing the new thermoplastic
marking. This allows the crew to work at different legs of
the intersection and limit the amount of time the intersection is
“We use four torches to pre-heat the asphalt and melt the
thermoplastic markings on the asphalt. It takes about 15 to
20 minutes for traffic to drive on it.
“There may be times when staff are not physically doing
something. We have a very good crew leader who orchestrates
tasks to get the most from his crew. Because these operations
are so labor intensive we utilize the summer help staff. Their
level of experience varies, and they are learning techniques
‘on-the-job”.’ which can limit the efficiency at times.
“There sometimes is a lag as the first group grinds and the
second groups waits for that spot to be ready for application. Most
intersections have several different markings that need
application, and two groups seem to get the most production from
the crew. That being said, we are using the information you
provided to help us analyze how we do things and see if there
is a better approach to this type of work.”