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State to try new mowing method

By DAVID TEWES
Sept. 4, 2010 at 4:04 a.m.


RIGHTS OF WAY MOWING COSTStatewide, it costs the Texas Department of Transportation more than $20 million to mow the rights of way.

The Yoakum District alone is spending more than $1 million to keep the rights of way mowed in eight of its 11 counties.

The green areas along the loop around Victoria could be a little neater under a plan the state will use for mowing the rights of way.

District Engineer Lonnie Gregorcyk with the Texas Department of Transportation said the mowing method has been used in a handful of other Texas counties, including Matagorda and Wharton.

"They've been aggressive and done a really good job," he said.

The contractor would be responsible for applying herbicide and mowing the rights of way on Zac Lentz Parkway and loop U.S. 59.

If the grass and weeds grow above 30 inches, the contractor would be penalized. But the contractor would be rewarded for keeping the area manicured.

The rewards and bonuses would be determined by the contract, which won't be awarded until January.

TxDOT Area Engineer Randy Bena said the mowing plan has worked well elsewhere in the state.

"The public expects us, even though funds are low, to maintain the right of way in good condition," he said. "They like it when the weeds are kept down."

Bena said it also enhances safety by improving visibility for drivers and by reducing wildfire hazards.

Gregorcyk said the state has been reviewing its mowing policy statewide in an effort to reduce that cost so it can put as much money as possible into road and bridge improvements.

He said statewide it costs more than $20 million to mow the rights of way. The Yoakum District alone is spending more than $1 million to keep the rights of way mowed in 11 counties, he said.

Gregorcyk said mowing of rights of way has been cut from about four to two times a year because of budget constraints. But he said he plans to add one mowing cycle for the developed areas, including the loop around Victoria.

He said that will likely involve mowing two narrow strips on each side of the loop a year and then the full width of the right of way once a year. Gregorcyk said it doesn't make sense to mow more often in the undeveloped areas.

"When you get to the river bottom, why are we mowing?" he asked. "We're just trying to stretch our pennies as far as we can."

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