Citizen Academy of Harrisonburg-Public Works

We had a field-trip tonight! We met at the Public Works department which is near Kline’s on South Main Street. Sean was able to take me there since it’s not really bike friendly all the way down there. And a wonderfully nice couple took me home and luckily it was on the way for them.

I’m still working on my note-taking skills. Maybe I will get better as the class goes on.


Snow Plow


One of the first things we did was take a tour of the facility. This is always so nice because you hear the people talk about it and show pictures, but seeing and touching is how I learn and how I like to interact. It was great! We saw trucks. Big trucks. Some go through so much beating! The first truck we looked at was a large dump truck (at least that’s what it looks like) that doubles as a snow plow and salt spreader. When the truck is full with salt, I believe they said it can go about 30 lane miles. When you think about it, that’s a whole lot of salt and when you’re talking lane miles, you don’t get very far.

Then you have the paving and patching truck, the street sweeper (there’s two of those), and the storm drain cleaner truck. All very large machines that do a lot of work every day. It seems hard to think about, but just because you don’t see the street sweeper, doesn’t mean that it’s not around. It has a 7-8 day rotation. That means your street (if you live in the city) will get swept every 7 or 8 days.

Just an FYI, don’t put your grass clippings or leaves in the street to have cleaned up by the sweeper, the system doesn’t like it and makes a lot more work for the guys when they could move on to another street.

The Street Division takes a very proactive approach to streets and tries to not let them get bad enough to where it needs to be patched. Unfortunately, some still do. But they have a plan for every road on when it should need to get repaved. Right now, you may notice that Main St in the downtown area has been repaved. You may have disagreed that it needed it. But, what I learned was, asphalt is flexible and when it looses that flexibility, it gets brittle and water gets in it and it cracks. Then chips. Next thing you know you have a nice, large hole to patch up. It looks bad and by that time, it could be worse underneath that top layer. And when you get into lower layers, you are talking more money. So, let them have their schedule and move on.

We also got to visit the sign shop (which my friend would have LOVED to join me for!). They now have a computer that cuts any shape or lettering out. First they take a think piece of aluminum and cover it with a reflective base, the add lettering, then something on top to seal. We make our own signs! I think its cool.


Traffic Light System


After signs, we moved onto traffic lights! One of the guys in that office geeked out a big on the software. It had cool graphs and stuff…but none of it meant anything to us. But, what we did understand were the traffic light cameras or “eyes”. There are sensors honed it on where cars should be at a stop light. That would be at the stop line, just in case you were wondering. When you are in that spot (even a bike) will be sensed, and it will change the lights accordingly. They are able to make timing adjustments from the office and do not have to go out in the field. They also program for different times of the day when traffic flow is heavier or lighter.

Along with roads you probably think of areas that need a little help. Areas that don’t seem big enough or don’t seem safe for what ever reason. You are welcome to call them and let them know. They likely know about the issue and are working to remedy it, but they may not know about something, and that is where the help of citizens come in handy. Give them a call! 540-434-5928

They have a few projects in the works right now. There will be a Stone Spring Connector from the west part of town (Dayton Walmart area) to the east part of town (meeting up with rt 33 on the other side of the hospital). It will take a while, but that is one huge project they are working on now. Also, adding bike lanes and sidewalks for pedestrians is a  big thing too. All new roads will have them, but its pretty hard to add them to old roads with houses lining them. Another good program that is getting citizens involved is the Traffic Calming Program. Neighbors are getting together and voicing their traffic concerns, whether it be volume or speed.


Resource Recovery Facility


Couple things I found very interesting is the refuse/recycling program. They use the Resource Recovery Facility at JMU to burn much of the trash collected (that is able to be burned) and it creates some power and heats JMU’s campus in the winter and cools in the summer. The air is then filtered then released while the trash is a tiny fraction of the original size and weight. It can incinerate up to 200 tons a day and heats up to 1500° F. I just think all that is fascinating! Here’s a cool video that goes over this.



One thought on “Citizen Academy of Harrisonburg-Public Works

  1. Pingback: Why participate in Citizen Academy? | Life's Craziness

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