Public Works

Find departments of public works or DPW. Public works departments provide information on public projects, maintenance of parks, buildings, roads, highways, bridges, tunnels, traffic signals, snow removal, public utilities, water treatment and sewage.

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About Public Works

What is Public Works?

A Public Works Department is a state, county or local government operation primarily responsible for maintaining and improving the public infrastructure and public properties, and often providing utility services. Public Works Departments are often organized in divisions based on different physical asset types, such as roads and highways, parks and recreation facilities, and public buildings, or by service area, such as sanitation, water, and sanitary sewer. Additional divisions may be established to provide internal services to the department, such as fleet maintenance and engineering services.

Maintenance of roads and highways involves caring for the street surfaces through pavement overlay, crack sealing, pothole repair, and curbs. Stormwater drainage is provided through a network of gutters, catch basins, drain inlets, underground culverts, and open channels. Street sweeping and cleaning of catch basins are usually annual tasks, or more frequent in some locations. Responsibility of the street system also includes traffic and pedestrian signals, street signs, public parking areas, and streetlights if publicly owned. During inclement weather, Public Works Departments keep roads and highways clear of snow, ice and other obstructions.

Public Works Departments often have divisions responsible for public buildings, parks and recreation facilities. Maintenance activities are usually carried out by a combination of in-house maintenance staff and outside contractors.

Engineering divisions design and monitor the construction of streets, sidewalks, bridges, and drainage structures, and ensure public improvement standards are met. They may also provide design services for construction and improvements of public buildings or landscape design for parks and recreations areas.

Many Public Works Departments provide Sanitation services such as garbage and recycling collection, leaf and yard waste collection and disposal services. Some Public Works Departments operate water treatment facilities and water distribution systems. They may also operate wastewater treatment facilities and the sanitary sewer system that collects wastewater from customers.

Because of their broad scope of responsibilities relating to public infrastructure, Public Works Departments have a critical role in responding to natural disasters and other emergencies. Public Works Departments work closely with Public Safety agencies to protect the public and to maintain continued access to roads and public facilities. They also assist in managing large public events and gatherings.