Special to the Bulletin

The nine-county Texas Department of Transportation’s Brownwood District, will begin summer mowing operations in early July, local officials said. This year begins an initiative to reduce the number of times and the number of acres that are mowed statewide.

TxDOT’s budget has been scrubbed several times in the last year with an eye toward reducing expenses while maintaining the high level of safety that the public expects. With less money and an aging system, maintaining the pavement structure is critical. Maintenance on pavement structures will be given priority over all other maintenance functions.

In the past, the Brownwood district has scheduled three mowing cycles annually. But this year, there will be only two — one during mid-summer and the second after the first frost in late fall. All U.S. and state highways will get a double-width mow which amounts to about 30 feet and FM roads will get a one width mow of 15 feet. Mowing will not be reduced in areas where sight distance is a concern such as intersections or on ramps and off ramps. Those areas will be mowed as often as necessary.

The Brownwood District does not depend solely on mowing to manage the right of way. Each maintenance office maintains a herbicide program to control invasive plants along pavement edges and eradicate noxious unwanted plants in the 30-foot clear zone to make way for more desirable ones.

The lack of money is not the only motivation for reducing mowing cycles across the state. Habitat degradation and loss is the most significant problem associated with maintaining a healthy population of wildlife and plant resources. The 800,000 acres of right-of-way along Texas highways is a natural, protected habitat for more than 900 species of wildlife and 5,500 species of vascular plants including 2,000 different wildflowers.

There is a worry — especially in rural areas — that reduced mowing will increase the number of vehicle collisions involving wildlife. Studies show that roadside management practices have very little influence on roadkill. Animals typically use an established corridor which has nothing to do with whether the roadside is mowed or not. The main factors that do influence wildlife movement patterns are based on available cover and access to favored habitats on adjacent lands.

Through its vegetation management program, TxDOT is committed to providing a safe and comfortable road network for the traveling public, enhancing environmental protection by developing roadside wildlife habitats, reducing erosion losses and providing cost-efficient maintenance activities, officials said.

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For information on this article, contact Sandra Parker, Public Information Officer, Brownwood District 325-643-0413 or sparker@dot.state.tx.us

Sandra Parker

Public Information Officer

Brownwood District