TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez to establish, within the Department of Transportation (DOT), an Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Program cleared the full Senate today.
S-724 would establish a specific program that would develop and adopt a comprehensive a detailed roadside vegetation management plan for cost effective maintenance and planting along roadsides, with emphasis on adaptable vegetation with long life cycles, native vegetation, and wildflowers.
“Properly grown plants are vital for storm water control on roadways to prevent flooding. If too much storm water builds up over time, the land along the roads and the road structure itself can become impaired,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This is about safety but also about the health of our environment.”
Unattended roadside plant life can be hazardous to drivers in a number of ways. Overgrown trees, bushes, or grass can block views of roadways, signs, or other drivers. Dry and dead plant life can break, scattering debris into roadways or catch fire and spread into roads or nearby land. In addition, proper roadside plant life management is vital to the protection of local and endangered plants and animals. Proper roadside plant life management also serves to maintain the aesthetics of roadways.
Part of the program would require the implementation of a comprehensive roadside vegetation management plan which will improve roadsides in a way that would serve a variety of purposes, including climate control, erosion control, weed control, scenic quality, wildlife habitats, and utility easements.
Under the bill, the DOT Commissioner would appoint an Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Program Coordinator to implement the program’s goals.
Several states have implemented Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management programs in order to ensure the consistent, intentional maintenance of roadside plant life. Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management programs have been successfully implemented in eight states: Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Texas, and Washington. Iowa has established several Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management programs on the municipal level.
S-724 cleared the full Senate 28-2 and will next head to the Assembly for further consideration.