Public Works

How you can help solid waste collections run smoothly

By Wally Urrutia, Solid Waste Manager 

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 outbreak, the City of College Station’s Solid Waste Division continues to provide essential solid waste collection services to our residents.

Since Mayor Karl Mooney issued the shelter-in-place order last week, we’ve seen an increase in household garbage, recycling, and bulk waste. At the same time, we’ve temporarily reduced service days to one or two a week for our commercial business customers — mostly restaurants.

On average, each of our collection trucks collects waste from 1,300 homes a day. We ask for your patience and understanding as our solid waste workers do their best to take care of our community’s needs as safely and efficiently as we can.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Secure all household garbage bags in your bins. Don’t place loose items.
  • Place your residential carts at least three feet away from obstructions.
  • Don’t place household garbage out on your bulk day. It can create health risks for our workers.
  • Minimize your large bulk/brush items to minimize additional hours of work and help our crews get home to their families.

We also encourage you to download the College Station Curbside app to stay informed about solid waste and recycling collection.

For more information, go to cstx.gov or call the Solid Waste Division at 979-764-3690.

 


About the Blogger

Solid Waste Division Manager Wally Urrutia is in his 33rd year with the City of College Station. He was named Solid Waste Manager of the Year in 2016 by the Texas Public Works Association.


 

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How businesses and apartments can recycle, too

By Caroline Ask, Environmental Compliance & Recycling Manager

Just about everyone recognizes that recycling and appropriate sustainability habits are vital to our well-being as a community. That’s why the City of College Station promotes and implements relevant practices, including providing low-cost recycling services for as many of our residents as possible.

While our community loves the recycling collection services the city has in our single-family residential areas, we don’t currently offer these services to businesses and multi-family dwellings such as apartments.

But that doesn’t mean your business or apartment complex doesn’t have recycling options. You can still commission services from private recycling businesses that are franchised to collect here.

The goal of the city’s recycling program is to decrease the amount of waste that enters the landfill by diverting eligible materials for recycling. We recycle efficiently to keep contamination at a minimum. And not all waste is contaminated, despite what it may seem.

Recycling contamination refers to non-recyclable materials or garbage that ends up in the recycling system. Materials may be non-recyclable because of a lack of market value, the unavailability of adequate processing infrastructure, or something as simple as residual food particles – such as greasy pizza boxes.

For a recycling program to function properly, residents must take precautions to minimize contamination. Our Solid Waste Division recently conducted a yearlong feasibility study that identified a high rate of recycling contamination as one of our most significant challenges.

In most instances, tenants relocate recyclables from their apartment units to a complex-wide collection bin, which is typically placed next to a solid waste dumpster. Unfortunately, some tenants seem to think the recycling bin is just another place to put their garbage. That makes it significantly more difficult to identify the source of contamination or even illegal dumping practices at communal containers.

Our study found that centralized recycling collection at apartments leads to materials that are so highly contaminated that they can only be hauled to the landfill. Subsequently, door-to-door collections where the generating resident could be identified and informed would be the only effective means for a successful multi-family program. High resident turnover in multi-family complexes complicates the process even more.

We must overcome many formidable hurdles before we can provide city-wide recycling for apartments and other multi-family residences in an economical, efficient way. We are always striving to find better ways to encourage responsible sustainability practices and improve the valued services we provide.

 


About the Blogger

Carolina Ask is in her third year with the city and her first as the environmental compliance and recycling manager. She previously served as an engineering program specialist and environmental inspector. Caroline previously held environmental health positions at Texas A&M and Houston’s Texas Children’s Hospital. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Bioenvironmental Sciences from A&M in 2012.


 

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Never miss your waste collection day again

By Caroline Ask, Environmental Compliance & Recycling Manager

How often have you been leisurely enjoying your morning coffee when you suddenly hear a large truck rumbling down your street?

You instantly know what it means — it’s your solid waste or recycling collection day, and you forgot to place your bin at the curb line.

Most of the time, College Station residents do an exceptional job of helping our collections run smoothly, but now it’s even easier with our improved free mobile app, which is called College Station Curbside. It replaces the outdated MyWaste/Recycle Coach app.

College Station Curbside’s straightforward, uncomplicated design makes staying informed about solid waste and recycling collection almost effortless. You can quickly find the garbage, recycling, and bulk/brush pickup collection schedule specific to your address and set the app to remind you of your collection days.

If you don’t have an Apple or Android smartphone, you can use our online My Schedule tool. Through My Schedule, you can sign up to receive waste collection reminders by email, phone, or text message. You can also print or download the schedule into your iCal, Google, or Microsoft Outlook calendar.

You’ll never again forget to put out your garbage, recycling, or bulk/brush items.

And you can enjoy that steaming hot cup of coffee in peace.

 

 

 


About the Blogger

Carolina Ask is in her third year with the city but her first as the environmental compliance and recycling manager. She previously served as an engineering program specialist and environmental inspector. Before joining the city, Caroline held environmental health positions at Texas A&M and at Houston’s Texas Children’s Hospital. She earned a bachelor’s in Bioenvironmental Sciences from Texas A&M in 2012.


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What’s the deal with the signal timing on University?

By Troy Rother, City Traffic Engineer

Few things are more frustrating than being stuck in seemingly endless traffic.

If you’ve driven down University Drive in Northgate in the last couple of weeks, you’ve probably faced extraordinarily long wait times. A soon as you go through a green light, the next light turns red. At times, it takes 15 or 20 minutes to travel a single mile.

Let me assure you, we share your frustration and apologize deeply for the inconvenience.

Allow me to explain what’s behind all the chaos. It won’t ease your frustration, but at least you’ll know what’s going on.

Our contractor activated the reconstructed Northgate traffic signals on Aug. 22. Regrettably, the signal contractor didn’t have his subcontractors present for the activation as the city had directed. As a result, the detection systems didn’t function properly, which caused the traffic signal to give the maximum green time for all approaches — even if a vehicle wasn’t present on that approach.

Rest assured we’re working diligently with the subcontractors to correct the problem. We’ve developed coordinated timing plans for the corridor and are installing them this week. We’re also working on camera activation, emergency vehicle recognition, and getting the signals to talk to one another.

That said, it’s essential to keep in mind that the focus of the entire project is pedestrian safety in an area bustling with thousands of students. Recent pedestrian accidents in the area – including several tragic fatalities – led the city to work with the university and the Texas Department of Transportation to make necessary changes.

The good news is that we expect to have the final timings installed the week of Sept. 9. The complex project was supposed to be finished months ago, but weather and utility conflicts created numerous delays.

When fully implemented, the signal timings will have an exclusive pedestrian-only phase for walking and cycling traffic to cross University Drive or the minor roadway at the intersection. During this time, all vehicular traffic will be stopped, including right-turning vehicles.

The pedestrian-only phase will undoubtedly create delays for motorists, but benefits include a safer situation for pedestrians and no pedestrian conflicts for vehicles attempting to turn onto University Drive. For example, we observed traffic at the Nagle intersection this week and saw 12 vehicles turning left onto University instead of the usual four because the vehicles didn’t have to wait for pedestrians to cross during motorists’ green light.

Our overriding goal will always be to operate and maintain a safe and efficient transportation system. Unfortunately, the complexities involved sometimes create frustrations and inconveniences for us all. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

 


About the Blogger

Troy Rother has been College Station’s city traffic engineer since 2003. He previously served as an engineer with the Texas Department of Transportation and in the private sector with Wilbur Smith Associates. Troy earned bachelor’s (1997) and master’s (1998) degrees in civil engineering from Texas A&M.


 

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Don’t mistake our street signs for souvenirs

By Lee Robinson, Traffic Systems Division Manager

Most people know traffic and street signs are vital to not only find your way around but to keep you and your family safe. Unfortunately, some folks seem to think those bright, reflective signs are better suited for trophies, souvenirs, or apartment decorations.

Several years ago, stop signs were the favored target, but street signs are more popular these days, especially those with common themes. In 2018, the most popular signs for thieves were from the same neighborhood west of the Wellborn-Rock Prairie intersection:

1. Papa Bear (stolen 6 times)

2. Momma Bear (5)

3. Goldilocks, Baby Bear, and Airborne (tied at 4)

The city’s Traffic Operations Division uses the latest in tamper-proof hardware to secure our signs, but resourceful thieves always seem to find a way to steal them anyway, sometimes taking the entire sign post assembly with cutting torches or smooth-cut power saws.

In 2018, we had 141 signs reported as missing or stolen. That’s down a bit from past years, but’s it’s still too many. The cost of replacing each sign averages about $200 and can be as much as $275, depending on the situation. That means last year’s price tag for replacing missing signs totaled more than $28,000.

The cost of the sign and hardware itself is just the start. We also have to factor in the staff time required to go to the location, assess what’s needed, repair any site damage, and install the new sign. In some cases, we can’t put the new sign in the original spot. When that happens, state and federal laws require us to call 811 to locate utility lines before digging elsewhere, a process that creates a delay of 2-3 days.

We maintain more than 15,000 traffic and street signs in our system, so we have plenty to do without replacing those that end up on apartment walls. If you thinking taking a sign isn’t a big deal, think again.

It’s against the law, and if you have one, you’ll be prosecuted.

 


About the Blogger

Traffic Systems Division Manager Lee Robinson is in his 36th year with the City of College Station.


 

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Public Works’ new truck engineered to save lives

 

By Wally Urrutia, Solid Waste Division Manager

Working on and around roadways and heavy trucks has always been a hazardous job. Thankfully, as technology evolves, our equipment is becoming safer.

The Public Works Department’s new attenuator truck is designed to save lives and lessen the risk of injury in work zones. The mounted device — also known as a crash cushion — absorbs the kinetic injury created by colliding vehicles, reducing the damage to vehicles and the injuries to motorists and workers.

Here’s a closer look at how it works:

The attenuator has become a necessary safety device for highway work zones across the country and will be shared by all divisions in our department.

Since our workers don’t have a giant, friendly Transformer to protect them from harm, we now have the next best thing.

 


About the Blogger

Solid Waste Division Manager Wally Urrutia is in his 32nd year with the City of College Station. He was named Solid Waste Manager of the Year in 2016 by the Texas Public Works Association.


 

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