In addition to this column, members are welcome to post their questions in the general forum area of the APWA website at There, other members have the opportunity to post their answers directly. We also retrieve those questions with broad appeal for “Ask Ann.”

“I am interested in hearing if and how communities complete winter maintenance of bike paths, the cost of winter maintenance per mile, and any liabilities experienced from lack of maintenance (black ice, etc.).” Mark Whitfield, Public Works Director, State College Borough, PA

You’d think people would be smart enough to stay home when there’s ice and snow on the bike paths! Instead it seems they enjoy the challenge even more. In most instances, the major efforts on snow and ice removal are directed at public streets, parking lots, and essential services. Bike paths and trails are pretty low on the list. Best answer would be to contact your legal counsel to determine how much liability is involved with making a quick pass-through, which could create slick conditions, as opposed to leaving the snow untouched for better traction. “Each to his own, as the old lady said when she kissed the cow.” Your agency’s perceived liability will rule this decision.

John Schmidt, Transportation Planner for Mid-America Regional Council, sends the following request, seeking your assistance: “Currently we are looking for national examples as to how local Capital Improvement Programs determine the need for project improvements. Typically, they are called “capacity triggers” and once a certain level of service capacity is reached, a decision process is put into effect. Of particular interest would be on the determining factors that trigger the improvement of one transportation corridor over another in a regional or larger urban/rural locale.”

Sounds like a good question to me. Wish I had the answer. This one is better left in the hands of our capable agency leaders. Please share your information with John at

“We’re working on implementing GASB 34 for the year ending June 30, 2003. We’re trying to decide whether to depreciate our infrastructure or use the modified approach. Our auditors are staunchly against using the modified approach, but I was hoping to get some balanced advice. Have any of you used the modified approach or thinking about it? Do you have any suggestions or advice? So far the main argument against it is that, basically, the modified approach holds you accountable for the condition of your infrastructure when frequently the funding for that maintenance is outside your control. I would appreciate any help.” Brian Kennedy, Financial Analyst, City of Hillsboro, OR

Oh, the joys of GASB and Asset Management. And what would we do without accountants who see public works through clouded glasses all too often. APWA recommends using the modified approach for a variety of reasons. Educating your accountants to the benefits of the modified approach could be your best “asset” for the coming year. As you know, GASB does not hold any agency “accountable.” It requires financial reporting that is understandable so your citizens can understand and hold you accountable! Using the modified information can make it easier for the decision-makers in your agency to plan and budget for the future. Some will use it to make good decisions and others will tell you that asking the Easter Bunny for help in securing more asset funding will offer the same chance of success.

APWA has several fine publications in our catalog, the newest of which is titled Getting the Most out of Your Infrastructure, written by Andrew Lemer, PhD. Check out these publications and CDs at on the Catalog icon.

R.W. Blumenauer, Mission, CA, sends the following question: “We are looking to adopt a policy regarding traffic signals during power outages. Specifically, whether to erect temporary four-way stop signs during such events, or just leave them uncontrolled.”

The number of possible answers to this question is determined only by the number of city attorneys who respond to the question! Some agencies feel that their motor vehicle act covers the uncontrolled intersections by converting to a four-way stop automatically and making the motorist responsible for using good judgment while the lights are out. Others will suggest you erect temporary signs on barricades, breakdowns from existing poles, or install generators at each location to cover the situation. Still others suggest the ultimate authority in their agency rests with the Police or Public Safety Department and public works responds according to the request they receive. The very best answer is to make certain everyone in your department knows what the right answer is!

Ask Ann…

Questions are welcome.

Please address all inquiries to:

Ann Daniels
Director of Technical Services
APWA, 2345 Grand Blvd.
Suite 500
Kansas City, MO 64108-2625
Fax questions to (816) 472-0405