In Indiana, we proudly refer to ourselves as the Crossroads of America.
Folks use our roads to get to work, get to their weekend getaway or visit family and friends.
Our roads are also used as major commerce routes, transporting millions of dollars of goods every day across the Midwest.
Whether you live here or are just passing through, we take pride in keeping our highways and byways looking pristine.
In 2018, the Indiana Department of Transportation announced an aggressive, enhanced roadside management program – Greener Crossroads – which focuses even more efforts and resources on keeping Indiana roadways looking their best.
In all, INDOT maintains more than 60,000 acres of medians and roadsides along Indiana's roadways, leading to a robust roadside management program that focuses on balancing safety, costs, environmental protection and aesthetics.
As part of this newly enhanced program, mowing cycles were increased, and trash pickup efforts were intensified. We've been sharing before-and-after photos with you on Facebook and Twitter to showcase our progress. So far this year, contractors have collected nearly 140,000 bags of trash from Indiana highways – enough to fill more than 1,500 dump trucks.
INDOT is also battling noxious and invasive species through ramped-up herbicide applications, taking care of those pesky plants that are good at obstructing motorists' sightlines.
These applications also add effectiveness to our mowing cycles by promoting competitive and desirable vegetation, enabling a more uniform look between mows.
INDOT is also focusing efforts on tree risk mitigation, identifying broken, damaged and unhealthy trees near our roadways that pose a danger to drivers. This helps us keep our roadways clean and safe.
An enhanced roadside management program means more crews working along Indiana roadways. While that's a good thing as it relates to keeping Hoosier highways beautiful, it underscores the need for everyone who shares the road to help keep workers safe.
At INDOT, we take work zone safety very seriously. We do all we can to keep everyone safe, but we need help. Statistically speaking, of all serious injuries incurred annually in work zones, 80% of those are actually motorists or their passengers.
So, when we talk about work zone safety – be that a construction site or a roadside management crew – we're of course concerned about the safety of our crew members, but it's also about you, the motorist.
When you're out and about this summer, whether you're heading to work, a cottage in the woods or a sports complex for a weekend softball tournament, please be aware of the crews performing this work. Pay attention, and when you see them, move over if it's safe to do so and slow down.
We want to keep Indiana's roadways beautiful, and we want everyone to be safe and enjoy them.
Joe McGuinness is commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation.
For more information on INDOT's efforts to maintain Indiana's roadsides, visit www.greenercrossroads.com.