Monday, June 15, 2009

WisDOT on mowing (or not)

I asked WisDOT about its new (non)-mowing policy and got the following response by spokesperson Peg Schmitt.

The department has refocused its routine maintenance efforts to assure that essential safety activities are being accomplished. Mowing is one such activity where the benefits are generally related to aesthetics. In order to achieve the essential safety needs, the department has re-directed efforts away from mowing and certain other activities.

The information about refocusing work priorities was shared with counties in April. Counties were informed service to be provided is mowing only a shoulder cut, once a season, with one mower pass (no aesthetic cleanup). The exception is for spot locations where vision is a safety issue for that specific area. Mowing for woody vegetation to the clear zone shall not be done as a standalone work activity, but shall be accomplished with the normal shoulder cut.

The changes apply to the entire state highway system, affecting rural and urban highways, and all roads from low speed roadways to Interstate highways. As noted above, mowing that is directly safety related, typically to provide a clear vision corner at public road intersections, will continue as in the past.

The change is not driven by immediate fiscal concerns. Rather it is the obligation the department has to address the most essential needs first. It is true that fiscal realities play a role in the ability to serve the full range of desired activities. At the same time, it is irresponsible to continue providing lower value services when higher priority needs are not being adequately served. The responsibility to first serve essential safety needs before putting effort into tasks that address mobility, ride and comfort, or aesthetics is a long term obligation that will remain in effect and only change if there is some other determination as to the highest priority services to be accomplished.

There are a few other situations where an exception may be considered. For example, when establishing new turf the department typically mows the planted area for two seasons under a regimen that is designed to improve the quality of the turf. There is also the potential that exceptions could be warranted based on other conditions that could be related to the growing conditions or perhaps fire danger potentials. The department will continue to assess such situations as needed and determine whether exceptions may be warranted.

This service direction may also need to be modified due to new funding constraints that are contingent on the biennial budget that is under consideration by the legislature.
The guidance for when the mowing is done is developed by the department. The department’s regional maintenance coordinators work with individual counties to share the guidance and establish work priorities.

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