TxDOT makes changes to mowing policy - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

5/22/10

TxDOT makes changes to mowing policy

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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has made some changes to their mowing policy on Texas highways to twice a year instead of when it looks bad.

May showers bring pretty flowers-along with grass, weeds and other vegetation-to Texas roadways. Maintaining more than 12,000 miles of state highway in the Texas Department of Transportation's (TxDOT) Lubbock District is an enormous task that involves more than roadways; 48,104 acres of right of way in the district's 17 counties also require maintenance.

Over the past few years, TxDOT has experienced a steady decline in the funding for both maintenance and construction of our highway system. During this time of shrinking budgets, every aspect of how TxDOT spends those limited funds has been analyzed, including the statewide management of roadside vegetation.

"Because of limited funding, TxDOT has changed its mowing policy," said Douglas Eichorst, P.E., Lubbock District engineer. "The new policy will allow us to better focus our mowing efforts for safety rather than aesthetics."

TxDOT's new policy limits the number of times rural highways receive a modified full-width-30 feet from the edge of the road (and medians) instead of the entire width of the right of way-mowing to two per year. Full-width mowing is primarily done for aesthetic reasons and does not affect safety. The department will continue to perform safety mowing as needed at intersections, driveways and on the inside of curves.

"The safety of the traveling public is a TxDOT priority and we'll continue working with the public to ensure that visibility is not an issue." Eichorst added. "But by reducing mowing cycles from three to two, we're expecting to save taxpayers as much as $25 million this year, statewide, and that's money that can be used for more critical roadway maintenance needs, like filling potholes and resurfacing roadways."

TxDOT's herbicide and wildflower programs help our highways look good but also reduces the cost of maintenance and labor by encouraging the growth of native species that need less mowing and care.

"Our goal is to reduce undesirable vegetation such as Johnson grass, careless weed, Kochia weeds, silver leaf night shade and rag weed, just to name a few species," said Ann Finley, Lubbock District vegetation management specialist. "We have specific herbicides that target these undesirable species while maintaining desired species, such as blue grama, buffalo grass, sideoats grama, and bluestems."

Herbicides also aid in regulating vegetation growth, enabling TxDOT to limit the number of mowing cycles.

"Our maintenance sections are implementing aggressive herbicide programs in their respective counties to reduce the amount of undesired vegetation along the right of way, especially at intersections and median turn-arounds," Eichorst said. "A herbicide program offers several benefits. First, it reduces the need to frequently mow fast-growing weeds that obstruct motorists' view. Secondly, it allows the natural grasses to flourish; improving driver visibility and enhancing the natural landscape."

In addition to its herbicide program, TxDOT will continue to mow at a seven inch height cut to maintain the health of the grass, Finley said.

"Mowing at seven inches helps plants store energy in the roots, allowing grass to grow and choke out undesired vegetation. There's a bigger chance to damage good vegetation, the shorter and more often it's cut," she noted.

Citizens are asked to contact their local TxDOT maintenance section to report areas with visibility or safety issues along the right of way.

Lubbock District Maintenance Section contact information

Bailey County (Muleshoe) 806-272-4230

Castro County (Dimmitt) 806-647-3361

Cochran County (Morton) 806-266-8686

Crosby County (Ralls) 806-253-2572

Dawson County (Lamesa) 806-872-2175

Floyd County (Floydada) 806-983-3320

Gaines County (Seminole) 432-758-3632

Garza County (Post) 806-495-2245

Hale County (Plainview) 806-293-5101

Hockley County (Levelland) 806-894-4323

Lamb County (Littlefield) 806-385-3661

Lubbock Northeast (Lubbock) 806-763-8137

Lubbock Southeast (Lubbock) 806-745-4688

Lynn County (Tahoka) 806-998-4004

Parmer County (Bovina) 806-238-1312

Swisher County (Tulia) 806-995-3009

Terry County (Brownfield) 806-637-8913

Yoakum County (Plains) 806-456-7456

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