Managing vegetation alongside county roadways

Vegetation Photo Blog

Roadway grader pulls vegetation off of shoulders onto the road surface in the Mirrormont neighborhood near Issaquah last month.

When the warm summer weather mixes with rain, vegetation begins growing quickly alongside the county’s almost 1500 miles of road—and it all grows at the same time. When it comes to managing it, King County’s focus is on targeting the vegetation that affects critical safety. This includes vegetation blocking signs and signals, visibility, or blocking pedestrian walkways or extending from road shoulders into traveled ways.

Road shoulders give lateral support to the road’s pavement. They also give travelers space to safely pull off the road. Most importantly, well maintained shoulders allow surface water to drain away from the roadway, helping to prolong the life of the road surface.

Vegetation growing on roadway shoulders is removed using a process commonly known as “shoulder pulling.” The term may sound painful, but the process doesn’t hurt at all. Shoulder pulling is multi-step process that begins by setting up a traffic control zone including signs, cones and flaggers when necessary. Vegetation growing along the shoulder is then cleared by a large piece of machinery called a grader. The grader scrapes the material onto the road surface.

Vegetation Photo 3 Blog

Front loader picks up vegetation scraped off the shoulders by the grader.


The remaining material is then picked up by a front loader and deposited into a dump truck to be hauled away.

Vegetation Photo 2 Blog

Front loader dumps vegetation into dump truck to be hauled away.

At the same time, the shoulders are manually raked to ensure they are level and the roadway is swept clean by a street sweeper. Finally, a layer of gravel is placed onto the shoulders to cover the bare earth and prevent erosion.

For more information about King County Road Services, go HERE. Don’t forget to follow @kcroads on Twitter!