More regulations to protect the environment has made designing roads more complex

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When Terry Hendryx drives around Clatsop County, he often has a critical eye on the road. He's checking the condition of the asphalt, the angle of the curves, the horizontal and vertical alignment of the road, the slope of banks.

Hendryx is an engineering technician with Clatsop County Public Works Department and helps design the county roads, including the recently completed remodel of Lewis and Clark Road.

"You don't learn anything if you don't look at what you've done," he says.

National County Government Week concludes Saturday. This year's theme is "Transportation: Counties Move America's People and Products." County governments build and maintain about 45 percent of the nation's roads and 44 percent of bridges nationwide.The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution declaring the week locally. In observance of the week, Clatsop County is profiling some of its Public Works employees.

The county uses a matrix system, weighing current traffic counts, type of traffic, condition of the roadbed and pavement, and other factors, to decide which road projects to do over the next five years. The list is reviewed by a citizen committee called the Public Works Advisory Committee and then taken to the Board of Commissioners to approve. Sometimes the list is changed along the way for various reasons. Such was the case when Lewis and Clark Road was bounced in front of Youngs River Road for the expected increased in traffic from the Corps of Discovery Bicentennial. Two miles of Youngs River Road will be rebuilt this summer.

From drawing board to groundbreaking can take a couple years. Hendryx starts by looking at old surveys to find the legal location of the road. He also goes out to do a physical survey of the actual road to compare to the original. If the two surveys conflict, or if there is no survey documentation, he goes through a process called "legalization," which uses the existing centerline of the road for the basis of the new legal description. He and other Public Works staff meet with the residents, and the Board of Commissioners hold a public hearing.

The process of designing roads has become more complex with more regulations to protect the environment, Hendryx says. There are more hoops to jump through with more agencies - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Oregon state forestry, fish and wildlife and environmental quality departments, to name a few. Sometimes federal and state requirements conflict with each other, and a permit from one agency could expire before another agency issues its permit. The county uses a wetlands consultant to scout whether there are any wetlands and what kind. Hendryx tries to skirt around wetlands when possible. He also tries to avoid taking out trees and residents' landscaping. He also writes the sometimes lengthy and complicated legal descriptions under the oversight of the county surveyor.

Hendryx uses a computer to plot the current path and design the new road. When he first started 14 years ago, the design work was done by hand. What once took weeks now takes hours. Hendryx says computerization results in safer and better roads because he can try out different designs on the computer and make more finite calculations. Federal and local standards lay out the width of the right-of-way and actual road based on the traffic and designation of the road as an arterial, collector or local use.

Once ground breaks, Hendryx is out on the project site inspecting everything including the depth of the base rock, placement and depth of the ditches and alignment of the culverts, and pouring of the asphalt. Once the project is completed, he goes back to replace the survey monuments and file a new survey document.

Hendryx says he and fellow engineering technician Todd Matz have the best of working environments. They're outside during the summer and indoors, designing during the winter.

The engineering design bug bit Hendryx when he was a student at Seaside High School. A Crown Zellerbach Corp. surveyor and engineer gave a talk about his job and let the kids try out his transits, chains and levels to survey part of Cullaby Lake Park. Hendryx went on to study surveying at Clatsop Community College and earn a bachelor of science in civil engineer technologies from Oregon Institute of Technology. But his graduation came during the recession of the 1980s and he couldn't find work in his field. He joined his dad in the wood products industry until 1989, when the county hired him to inspect utility construction. His job has grown.

A self-professed baseball addict, Hendryx umpires high school, Babe Ruth and junior state baseball games and watches his son Matthew, the youngest of his three kids, play baseball for Pacific University.

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