Every property owner knows this simple fact: mowing turf costs time and money. With thousands of acres of roadside to mow every year, SHA is also concerned with the amount of vehicle emissions released from mowing equipment.
Several years ago, SHA embarked on a reduced mowing program, returning selected areas of grassed roadsides to meadows and forests. Through this process, SHA has steadily decreased the number of acres being mowed and the number of mowing cycles in a season; in fact, in fiscal year 2010 alone, our revised mowing program allowed us to reduce mowing by 33,000 acres, freeing up $3.5 million for use in other maintenance programs. At the same time, mowing reduction has created areas that benefit wildlife, and improve water quality by capturing and containing runoff after storms.
In 2011, SHA intensified this cost savings and enhanced environmental stewardship with its new Turfgrass Management Guidelines. The guidelines call for a maximum of three “one-pass” mowing cycles that are confined to ten feet from the edge of highways. The mowing does not occur until grass has reached a height of 18 inches. Median mowing is addressed in similar manner. Restricted visibility areas, such as interchanges, intersections, and acceleration or deceleration lanes are mowed more frequently and the grass is maintained at a lower height for the safety of motorists. In late fall, a “full width” mowing is performed along roadsides and in medians to assure that noxious vegetation is managed and trees do not establish in areas where they could pose a danger to motorists.