MnDOT using new tool to expand living snow fence program

snowfenceIn Minnesota winter storms, rural landscapes and strong winds often combine to create large snow drifts and blowing snow that can strand motorists and reduce driver visibility. On average, 11 people die in blowing snow conditions in Minnesota every year.

This winter, a MnDOT office in south-central Minnesota is taking action to prevent blowing and drifting snow with the help of a new snow fence payment calculator tool developed by U of M researchers. Living snow fences are plantings of trees, shrubs, grasses, or crops used as windbreaks to control high winds and control drifting snow before it reaches the roadway.

The tool is designed to analyze the benefits and savings of creating living snow fences—such as standing corn rows—in specific locations and compare that with the cost of managing blowing and drifting snow on the roadway 

Using the new web-based version of the snow fence payment calculator, highway officials can easily plug in values such as labor and material costs for treating a specific stretch of roadway, site-specific crash statistics, and the current price of corn. The payment calculator takes those inputs and creates a cost-benefit analysis report that can be used to help set
reimbursement rates to landowners for the creation of living snow fences.

This winter, MnDOT will use the payment calculator tool to determine where to add standing corn row snow fences in the area surrounding Gaylord, Minnesota—especially along the State Highway 19, 22, and 111 corridors, where blowing and drifting snow is a frequent problem.

In the future, researchers plan to make this payment calculator available to local Minnesota transportation agencies, as well as transportation agencies in other states and even other countries.

Read the full article in the November issue of Catalyst.

Posted in Environment, Rural transportation, Safety, Transportation research

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