The roadside right-of-way serves many purposes– it provides space to escape crashes, creates a sense of openness that contributes to driving ease, improves sight distances, provides space for maintenance activities, such as snow removal and storage, and provides an area that allows for proper road drainage. However, overhanging trees, brush and weeds can grow into a serious safety concern for road users, especially in and around power and telephone lines, highway medians and along the roadside.

The Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC) has developed a Roadside Brush Control Program to help keep these areas reasonably clear. This four-prong approach is designed to contain roadside brush that could obstruct motorists’ vision, create drainage problems or cause snow/ice problems if left unchecked, and includes the following actions:

Roadside mowing

WCRC uses a subcontractor to perform roadside mowing. Per their contract, they will mow along paved county roads twice and unpaved county roads once throughout the season. They do not mow along subdivision roads. The contractor is responsible for the scheduling of mowing to mow through the county most efficiently. They generally work on a township-by-township basis. Click here to read more about WCRC’s roadside mowing program.

Mechanical brush mowing

WCRC crews use a specially designed brush mower to cut back roadside brush. This equipment will focus on clearing brush that is 2” in diameter or less. This mowing will be done year-round, whenever the weather allows. Over the past decade, WCRC has not had the resources to continuously brush mow. Fortunately, with increases to road funding from the state, WCRC is finally able to restart its mechanical brush mowing program.

Herbicides

Specifically trained, licensed and experienced professionals selectively apply the herbicides to specific vegetation that could create a driving hazard. This spot spraying along local unplatted and primary roads is done on a rotating basis in one quarter of the county late each summer. The operation is not a continuous broadcast spray – only those roadside areas where existing brush and limbs create safety hazards are sprayed. Herbicide spraying does not take place in subdivisions.

Hand trimming

Hand trimming is usually part of a larger road improvement project and is required to help ensure the safety of the roadway, including vertical clearance for emergency vehicles, school buses and WCRC snow plows.

Frequently Asked Questions

When will you be working on my road?

Roadside mowing – WCRC uses a subcontractor to perform roadside mowing. Per their contract, they will mow along paved county roads twice and unpaved county roads once throughout the season. They do not mow along subdivision roads. The contractor is responsible for the scheduling of mowing to mow through the county most efficiently. They generally work on a township-by-township basis.

Mechanical brush mowing – Starting in late-summer 2018, WCRC crews will start brush mowing on primary roads in each township. The crews will work on a township-by-township basis.

Herbicide spraying – Approximately one-quarter of the county is sprayed annually. A given area will only be sprayed once every four years. The schedule for spraying over the next four years is as follows:

  • 2018 – Ypsilanti, Pittsfield, Lodi, York, and Augusta
  • 2019 – Webster, Dexter, Lyndon, Sylvan, and Lima
  • 2020 – Salem, Northfield, Scio, Ann Arbor, and Superior
  • 2021 – Sharon, Freedom, Manchester, Bridgewater and Saline

Hand trimming – Hand trimming is usually part of a larger road improvement project.

Overgrown brush is making it difficult for me to safety exit my driveway. Will WCRC come out to remove this brush?

WCRC does not mow or clear brush for driveway sight distance. Driveway sight distance is the responsibility of the property owner per the terms of the driveway permit. WCRC will mow the road edges throughout the season which may help with driveway sight distance.

If a resident feels they still can’t see safely when pulling out of their driveway, they should clear the appropriate vegetation in order to be safe.

WCRC will work to clear overgrown brush near county road intersections that are blocking sight distance. If you know of an intersection that needs to be addressed, please click here to report the issue. 

Your crews just brush mowed and the road is a mess, are you coming back to clean-up?

No. The focus of mechanical brush mowing is the ditch area beyond the edge of pavement and most of the debris will remain in the ditch line. WCRC relies on traffic to blow off any small debris from the road surface.

How safe are herbicides?

The WCRC’s contractor, G and T Services, applies Tordon K, Escort (a drift control additive) and NU-Film-IR. These chemicals have been approved by both the Michigan Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Toxicological studies of both long-term and short-term, high-level exposures have shown these chemicals to be safe – in fact, in terms of lethal dosage, safer than substances like caffeine and aspirin.

A copy of the Material Safety Data Sheet and the product specimen label for these are available at the WCRC office.

Why doesn't WCRC just mow the roadside without using herbicides?

WCRC hires a contractor every summer to mow along the roadsides but this is not an appropriate solution for every brush problem.

Roadside mowing can be unsafe in certain circumstances and results in a wholesale reduction in vegetation, rather than just invasive or undesirable plants. Mowing also does not prevent re-growth; it is only a short term solution and requires frequent, ongoing mowing to keep vegetation under control. Brush will often re-sprout into many more stems than were originally cut, actually causing brush to become more dense.

Due to these challenges, WCRC uses a variety of tools within the Roadside Brush Control Program to keep the road right-of-way safe.

Can I ``opt-out`` of this program?

If property owners would rather not have herbicide sprayed along the roadside of their property, owners can elect to clear the brush and limbs themselves before the spraying program begins each year.

Any property owners who opts out of the program must remove brush and low hanging limbs at minimum fourteen (14) feet up and fourteen (14) feet away from the traveled portion of the right-of-way (14 feet from the edge of the road). Property owners must have permission from WCRC to opt out of this program. If the roadside vegetation control efforts have not been accomplished within the permitted time frame an application of an herbicide may occur.

WCRC has a letter of understanding form that must be signed by property owners wishing to opt out of the herbicide program. Click here to download the form. Copies are also available at the WCRC office.

Does WCRC really want property owners to assume responsibility of brush on their own property?

The WCRC considers roadside maintenance a team effort and is pleased to have property owners as partners in this vital safety program. This is why the WCRC is eager to accommodate property owners who prefer to handle brush control themselves. This kind of joint effort benefits both WCRC and the property owners

How do I know if my area is targeted for spraying this year?

Approximately one-quarter of the county is sprayed annually. A given area will only be sprayed once every four years. The schedule for spraying over the next four years is as follows:

  • 2018 – Ypsilanti, Pittsfield, Lodi, York, and Augusta
  • 2019 – Webster, Dexter, Lyndon, Sylvan, and Lima
  • 2020 – Salem, Northfield, Scio, Ann Arbor, and Superior
  • 2021 – Sharon, Freedom, Manchester, Bridgewater and Saline

Further information is available through the Road Commission by contacting Adam Lape at (734) 327-6697, or lapea@wcroads.org.

Is it safe for me to walk my pets after an application has taken place?

Yes.  It is safe to come into contact with areas after the herbicide has dried.

If pets tend to lick their feet after walking, it is advisable to rinse their feet with water if they have walked through an affected area, although the application rate presents very little risk to pets or people.

Is WCRC the only road agency to use herbicides on its road ways?

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) applies herbicide to state trunkline (highway) routes statewide. In addition to MDOT, multiple county road commissions apply herbicides to roadsides to manage roadside vegetation, including Muskegon, Kalamazoo, Clinton, Eaton, Tuscola, Saginaw, Hillsdale, and Delta Counties.