Snow fences in west central Minnesota prove to be effective during recent winter storms
DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Recent snow storms provided the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) the first significant snow and wind event to test the structural and vegetative snow fences that were installed along various state highways last fall. According to MnDOT, the snow fences proved to be an effective method for improving road maintenance operations and traffic safety in areas with little to no wind break.
“Where the snow fences were installed, it was like night and day from where they started and stopped,” said Kohl Skalin, MnDOT District 4 Maintenance Superintendent. “In the past, numerous resources were required to maintain these corridors during a snow event. Our operators did not have to pay any special attention to these areas because of the snow fences, which allowed them to spend more time on the rest of their plow routes.”
Currently, MnDOT District 4 has 276 snow traps in west central Minnesota that cause major roadway issues during snow and ice events. Along these stretches, MnDOT has started working with land owners to install one of three types of snow fences: structural, living (trees/shrubs) or vegetative (corn rows or hay bales).
Two locations in the Moorhead area that saw major improvements to conditions and traffic safety during the latest storms were Interstate 94 and Highway 10 near the Highway 336 interchange. Last fall, MnDOT partnered with local farmers and landowners Kory Koester, Greg Johnson, David Johnson, Bryan Oberg, Fred Kuehl and Glyndon Farms to install both a vegetative and structural snow fence along these corridors.
The Minnesota State Patrol saw the impacts of these snow fences first hand.
“There was a large difference in visibility and snow amounts on the roadway as compared to the area without a snow fence,” said Capt. Brian Cheney of the Minnesota State Patrol. “[We] only responded to one vehicle off the roadway, which was in the east bound lanes of Interstate 94, in the area protected by the snow fence. This, historically, has not been the case for this area during similar weather events.”
Currently, MnDOT District 4 has more than 5.6 miles of vegetative snow fence protecting state highways. Locations of other installations of snow fences in west central Minnesota include:
- Structural snow fences on Highway 10 west of Glyndon and I-94 near Barnesville;
- Living snow fences on Highway 9 from Barnesville to Breckenridge, Highway 12 on the Danvers Curve, Highway 34 west of Dunvilla, I-94 near Rothsay, and I-94 near Highway 29 in Alexandria;
- Vegetative snow fences on various portions of Highway 210 in Otter Tail County, Highway 9 in Pope County, and Highway 28 in Stevens County;
- Combination of living and vegetative snow fences on Highway 210 in Wilkin County, and Highway 108 from Pelican Rapids to I-94.
MnDOT is looking to continue partnering with land owners to install snow fences in open areas along state highways. The goal is to increase safety during the snow and ice season, and decrease the use of salt on state roads.
Interested land owners should contact Kohl Skalin, 218-846-7943, to determine if they are candidates for the program. Land owners who are eligible to participate may receive negotiated compensation. MnDOT can purchase or lease the parcel, depending on the project type agreed upon by MnDOT and the land owner.
District 4 is comprised of more than 1,567 miles of state highway across 12 counties in west central Minnesota: Becker, Big Stone, Clay, Douglas, Grant, Mahnomen, Otter Tail, Pope, Stevens, Swift, Traverse and Wilkin.
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