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Mow is less: State plans limited grass cutting on county roads

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You may have to mow your lawn at least once a week to keep the grass short, but the state highway department only plans to mow intersections and ditches in the county twice this summer.

Highway workers will be mowing U.S. 31, State Road 135 and the other four state highways in Johnson County twice this year. The highway department mowed along U.S. 31 this week but otherwise hasn’t mowed in the county this summer.

Workers will only mow more often if grass or weeds grow tall enough to block motorists’ view. U.S. 31 will get first priority for mowing in Johnson County this year, and then State Road 135, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Harry Maginity said.

This summer, highway workers are refinishing some sections of road with tar and stones, and won’t get to the county’s mowing until after some of that work is finished, he said. They will not stop a project, such as the messy chip-and-seal road resurfacing, midway to mow grass, he said.

State workers will mow more often if grass gets tall enough to make it hard for drivers to see. Then they will mow in the spots where the grass is dangerously high, Maginity said.

Otherwise, the mowing will have to wait.

But complaints don’t always prompt the state to send workers on lawnmowers. This week, the state decided concerns raised by residents about tall grass at the intersection of Smokey Row Road and State Road 135 were unfounded after a highway crew manager drove through the intersection, Maginity said.

The grass is tall, but the worker decided after driving through the intersection that it isn’t affecting visibility, he said.

Residents also raised concerns about the busy intersection last summer. This year, the state

is having left turn lanes and a stoplight added to the intersection, which is one of the county’s most dangerous.

The grass in the construction area near the intersection is the responsibility of contractor Renascent to cut, and the highway department will check on the height of grass in the construction area and have the contractor mow if necessary, Maginity said.

Drivers can call in complaints about tall grass if they’re concerned about safety, and highway workers also will ask for an area to be mowed if they notice patches that are too high, he said.

The state spends about $8 million each year to mow 40,000 acres of grass and weeds along state roads. Metropolitan areas, such as in Indianapolis, could get mowed up to four times per year, but mowing twice in Johnson County tends to be enough to allow drivers to see well at intersections, Maginity said.

If weeds, such as thistles, spread in the land alongside the highways, the highway department will spray those within a few days of learning they’re a problem — often from residents’ complaints, he said.

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