Cities to state: Let us start to mow

Tall weeds, grass cast shadow on entry-ways

The grass in the median of U.S. 31 through much of Johnson County won’t be getting much higher than your own yard this summer.

The strips separating state highways are mowed by Indiana Department of Transportation crews that can typically only make rounds twice each summer. But at least three local communities say that isn’t good enough and are sending city or town workers to mow the grass on a regular basis.

The reasons: Safety of motorists due to visibility and, of course, to create nice entryways and thoroughfares through the communities.

Greenwood and New Whiteland have been mowing the median of U.S. 31 for years. This year, new Mayor Steve Barnett wanted Franklin to begin mowing the median as well in order to improve the look of the city.

Greenwood crews mowed the median about 30 years ago but had stopped the practice. About five years ago, Greenwood Deputy Mayor Terry McLaughlin said residents were often stopping him and asking why the city was letting the grass get so tall. He would always explain how the median was owned by the state, but city leaders decided in 2013 to ask to start mowing the grass.

“They are the gateways into the city,” McLaughlin said. Tall grass is “not the image we want to portray in the city of Greenwood,” he said.

In some instances, tall grass could create a safety issue, especially for motorists in Whiteland and Franklin using the crossovers, which are constructed so that the pavement dips to allow for drainage but could cause problems for motorists who can’t see due to the grass, McLaughlin said. The crossovers aren’t often used, but just one mistake could cause a serious accident, he said.

Whiteland crews have put a priority on mowing the medians for about three years, town manager Norm Gabehart said. The highway is the main thoroughfare through the community, and the safety and appearance of it is important, he said.

“It’s such a vital part of our appearance,” Gabehart said.

All of the communities had to ask the state for permission to mow the grass, and none are reimbursed for the extra mowing. Communities around the state are asking the state for permission to begin mowing the state-owned medians.

INDOT mows more than 60,000 acres of roadsides every summer, and makes decisions on how often to mow in each area based on visibility for drivers, safety for the mowing crews, controlling certain weeds and promoting native plant and wildflower growth, spokesman Will Wingfield said. State road crews will mow each area at least twice each summer, and possibly three times in certain areas if needed due to weather or other factors, he said.

“INDOT staff patrol U.S. highways and state routes and identify sight distance and safety concerns to be addressed between mowing cycles,” Wingfield said. “Our staff lives in the communities we serve, and we drive these roads too.”

At a glance

Concern about tall grass along U.S. 31?

Contact the Indiana Department of Transportation


Phone: 877-305-7611

Author photo
Michele Holtkamp is editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2774.