The Municipality of Central Manitoulin often gets questions, comments and complaints about road right-of-way brush clearing. To address this we are providing this helpful list of advantages and reasons why we brush the roadways.
Roadside right-of-way brush clearing is an area of maintenance that the Municipal Roads Department pursues year-round. The Municipal right-of-way generally extends about 66 feet in most areas.
There are several important reasons that this right-of-way zone should be kept free of trees, branches, brush, and other obstructions.
Trees and roads do not coexist very well. If we are to accommodate trees in proximity to roads, it would be to the detriment of roads and traffic in various ways. Residents need to understand that if we are going to preserve trees near and a large canopy over our roads, they must be prepared to spend more money more frequently in various ways for road use and maintenance.
Particular problems with vegetation in municipal right-of-ways include:
• Trees in close proximity to the edge of pavement represent an increased direct contact hazard to vehicles. Even if contact is avoided, excessive growth along roadways tends to force traffic toward the centerline, reducing mutual clearance with on-coming traffic. This is a liability issue.
• Excessive brush in intersection right-of-way areas presents sightline obstructions and increases the risk of vehicular accidents in these areas. This is a liability issue.
• Excessive growth along roadways reduces accessible areas for pedestrian traffic, and forces walkers and bikers closer to the centerline, increasing potential for accidents.
• Trees in close proximity to the edge of pavement typically cause heaving and cracking of pavement due to root and trunk growth.
• Excessive trees, limbs, and brush in right-of-way may obstruct visibility of street signs. This is a liability issue.
• In addition to sightline problems, low growth extending over the pavement nudges traffic toward the centerline, thus reducing the separation zone between opposing lanes of travel. Additionally, overhanging branches present a particular hazard to larger trucks, including the municipality’s plow trucks.
• Low brush and clutter in the shoulder areas degrades snowplowing efforts. Clear road shoulders are essential as snow shelf areas for storage of plowed snow. Obstructions in the shoulder areas hinder proper clearing of the road surfaces and even distribution of plowed snow.
• Excessive canopy in roadside areas hinders the drying and melting processes for residual moisture on road surfaces that relates also to travel safety. Sun exposure and air movement at the road surface are key factors in enhancing melting and drying.
• Road deterioration is accelerated by prolonged exposure to moisture. Thus, improving drying conditions is an investment in our road maintenance program.
• Trees in close proximity to roads increase the quantity of leaves shed onto the road. Leaves in road surfaces usually end up obstructing proper drainage of stormwater and may sometimes also create slippery driving conditions in rain events.
• Trees in close proximity to roads increase the probability of blowdown and ice storm impacts. Because of particular storm impacts (or even randomly), trees and limbs may fall into or over the roadway, impeding traffic, or into utility lines, disrupting service.
• Excessive canopy and growth along roadways diminishes lighting conditions. Clearing improves visibility by enhancing the access of natural light.
• Also, moving the clearing limit further from the edge of pavement discourages some wildlife activity close to the road. If entering the right-of-way, clearing improves sightlines for wildlife, giving it and motorists greater margin for mutual visual contact, and thus tending to reduce the potential for accidents involving animals.
It is important to have an aggressive and regular road right-of-way clearing program to ensure that trees are eliminated at the earliest stage possible. A proactive program helps to avoid the more difficult problems that arise when trees have been allowed to grow to a larger size where they are both more costly to remove and provide greater aesthetic value.