The Iowa Department of Transportation is researching new ways to keep snow from drifting on heavily traveled roadways. The study involves a few areas of the state where high winds are common and blow snow onto highways or interstates – causing dangerous driving conditions.
Annette Dunn, Iowa DOT Winter Operations Manager, says researchers are analyzing how much right of way is needed to adequately block the snow. They’re hoping to place more fencing in ditches rather than farm fields. “What we’ve done in the past is tried to put snow fencing out in corn or bean fields, but corporate farming and farmers needing to get into the fields earlier (in the spring)…that’s made it more difficult for them to agree to do this,” Dunn said. The DOT pays farmers who agree to have snow fencing placed on their property.
The study could lead to more man-made materials in ditches to block snow drifts or “living” snow fences, such as trees, bushes and shrubs. “One of the drawbacks of a living snow fence is we have to wait for that to grow and if any of it dies out, we have to replace it and wait for that to grow again,” Dunn said. “We are looking at both options to see which is more effective. Obviously, the living snow fence is more appealing than having a man made fence there.”
Depending on the weather the rest of this winter, Dunn expects the DOT will make a recommendation on new ways to keep snow off roads sometime next summer.