The snow storms provided Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) with the first significant opportunity to test various types of snow fences that were installed along various state highways last autumn. 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 autumn, MnDOT partnered with local farmers and landowners to install both a vegetative and structural snow fence along these corridors.
“There was a large difference in visibility and snow amounts on the roadway as compared to the area without a snow fence,” said Captain 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.
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.