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Fulton cutting back roadside foliage, catching up with roadwork

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Catherine W. Idzerda
August 9, 2010

If someone suggested that trees and roads don't go together, you would:


A. Wonder if he or she had been hitting the hard stuff a little early.


B. Have your hearing checked.


C. Discuss safety issues and oil prices.


All summer, Fulton Township residents have watched as roadside trees were cut down or trimmed back. The work has been going on, to a lesser extent, in Bradford Township, too.


What's going on?


Road maintenance.


"That's just to keep the tree limbs out of the right-of-way," said Mike Guisleman, town of Fulton supervisor. "We're trying to get caught up."


Town Chairman Evan Sayre said his rural township was probably no different than any other and had been "battling it forever."


"Trees in the right-of-way cause all sorts of problems—snow drifting, vision problems," said Sayre, sounding harried. "They shade the road in the winter, and in the spring the road is a piece of junk."


Seriously? The shade of leafless winter trees affects the condition of the roads?


Yes, seriously.


"That part of the road doesn't get the sunlight, and it doesn't dry out as fast. It goes through more freeze-and-thaw cycles," said Ben Coopman, Rock County director of public works.


More freeze-and-thaw cycles mean more moisture on the road.


"Moisture is one of the worst things for roads," Coopman said.


Even if a tree only shades 1 foot of the roadway, the moisture content and the difference between its free-thaw cycles and the surrounding blacktop can cause the road to break up.


Now you're looking at road repairs.


"About seven years ago, grinding up a mile of road and putting on a double lift of blacktop with shoulders cost $35,000 to $40,000," Sayre said. "Now, it costs $185,000. The price of oil is just astronomical."


Fulton Township has 60 miles of road.


A stand of trees can also act as a snow fence, dumping drifts into the road, Coopman said.


"A snow fence works by slowing down the wind; the snow slows down and falls," Coopman said.


Highway engineers have worked out a formula to determine how far snow fences should be from the road.


Finally, there's the wildlife issue.


Ditches and hedgerows are home to a variety of wildlife. In rural areas, where road shoulders are slim to nonexistent, deer, raccoons, farm cats, possums, rabbits and wild turkeys often make abrupt excursions into the road.


Cutting back the brush and trees reduces the chances of road kill and vehicle damage. It also increases drivers' ability to see other drivers, especially on winding rural roads and remote intersections.


"It's a safety issue," said Sandra Clarke, clerk for the town of Bradford.


Every year, town officials set aside money for roadside brush and tree trimming. This year, the town will spend $10,000


The town of Fulton plans to spend $40,000 as part of its "catch-up" plan.


"Once you get caught up, you can control things by mowing," Guisleman said.



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