Lane County Public Works: Improving livability, sustainability and community infrastructure

Road Crew

Lane County Public Works: Improving Livability, Sustainability and Community Infrastructure

Lane County’s Public Works office is one of the largest departments in the County, home to more than 600 employees in the Road Maintenance, Waste Management, Parks and Animal Services, Land Management, Engineering and Construction, Fleet and General Services, and Lane Events Center divisions. Its director, Tim Elsea, was chosen as the County’s new Public Works director in August of 2016 and has drawn on his 20 prior years of public works experience in other counties, as well as his professional engineering background, to oversee improvements to essential infrastructure.


Lane County Public Works’ mission is to “maintain and enhance the livability and sustainability of Lane County's natural and built environments by providing safe and cost-effective public infrastructure and related services.” A United States Army veteran, Elsea speaks passionately about achieving this through the robust master planning programs and community task forces appointed to implement improvements in seven different areas while also providing opportunity for public input.


A large part of Elsea’s position with Public Works is listening to the community, conducting in-depth studies and discovering smart ways to solve some of the most complex organizational and community challenges — all in the face of dramatic budget reductions in recent years. Thankfully, the $22 million earmarked in the recent state transportation package is helping the Department improve public infrastructure, health and safety.


Lane County's transportation system is essential to supporting the local economy, providing connectivity and meeting daily mobility needs. Public Works covers a wide variety of projects. One example Elsea mentioned is Senior Transportation Planner Becky Taylor who, through her work with a local task force, has identified the highest areas of traffic fatalities, as well as hot spots that made it difficult for emergency responders to arrive on the scene quickly. Taylor developed the state’s second Transportation Safety Plan, which involves creating teams from Transportation Planning, the Sheriff’s Office, Health & Human Services and other partners to create a holistic solution that increases safety.


Another infrastructure challenge that Public Works has sought to overcome is what Elsea refers to as the Pavement Condition Index, or PCI.


The PCI is a numerical index between 0 and 100 which is used to indicate the general condition of a pavement. It is widely used in transportation civil engineering. It is a statistical measure and requires manual survey of the pavement.


“Every bridge and roadway has a natural depreciation curve. You can add life to infrastructure if you can predict well and budget for culverts and different types of maintenance at the highest points on the Pavement Condition Index,” said Elsea. “Teams have done an incredible job maintaining bridges in the county.”


The challenge lies now in protecting the infrastructure. He plans to add a bridge crew for better asset management and predictive budgeting.


As plans move forward with infrastructure and other projects, Elsea is looking ahead to identify needs and streamline systems. One area he applauds is the Short Mountain Landfill team. They have reached record levels of compaction.


“Airspace is the most expensive area in a landfill. So, achieving record levels of compaction helps save money and extends the life of the landfill,” said Elsea.


The infrastructure projects and audits are not the only projects underway. In 2018, audits in the Fleet and General Services Division, as well as more projects to improve both public and inward-facing operations, will be completed.

 Dump Truck

“We want to make sure we’re serving taxpayers well,” said Elsea.


The Director and staff are looking forward to many improvements over the next few years. You can track their progress on the County’s website.