Purchase Any Program Supplies and Equipment

Taking advantage of the Living Roadway Trust Fund

Since 1990, counties have enjoyed support from the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Living Roadway Trust Fund. Roadside managers submit applications each year to acquire resources for their program. The LRTF does not fund salaries, trucks, or tractors. Beyond that, it’s up to the county to be resourceful. While eligibility for this funding requires only that a county have an IRVM plan on file with the LRTF, a county’s commitment to IRVM is a factor when grant applications are reviewed. A full-time roadside manager on staff demonstrates strong commitment. Applications are due each year on June 1.

Typical equipment needed for a program

See the latest LRTF Funding Guidelines or contact the LRTF coordinator to verify if LRTF funds can be used for a piece of equipment. LRTF grants can be used toward most of these items:

  • Pickup truck, pretty heavy duty (3/4-ton, large enough for fire pumper unit).
  • Tractor, 60 hp with dual rear axle.
  • Flatbed truck for herbicide spray rig.
    • Many counties are going with flatbed truck mounted spray units with chemical injection, spray heads and GPS. The Living Roadway Trust Fund will help with purchase up to 80%. 
    • Sprayers are not the highest priority for LRTF so the bigger the cash match the county comes up with, the better your chances. You can spend $25,000 pretty easily. 
  • Truck or trailer for hydroseeder.
  • Broadcast seeder.
  • Hydro-Seeder (800 gal. minimum with mechanical agitation).
  • Native seed drill (6-foot).
  • Cultipacker.
  • Boom mower.
  • Chainsaws.
  • Brush chipper.

There are many other pieces of equipment counties use. Many can be funded 80% through LRTF. This includes seed storage room, herbicide storage, and equipment shed: 

  • GPS. 
  • UTV.
  • Fire rigs and safety equipment.
  • Culti-packer. 
  • Straw mulch blowers. 
  • Harrows and drags.
  • Trailers.             
  • Silt fence equipment. 
  • Chainsaws.
  • Equipment shed. 
  • Brush mowers. 
  • Broadcast seeder.

Roadside vegetation inventories  

The most effective roadside management starts with accurate information about roadside conditions. Inventory information helps set management priorities and provides baseline data for measuring program success.

Information collected in a roadside inventory includes herbaceous cover, tree and brush cover, weed concerns, bare areas, and areas with erosion and encroachment. The inventory process typically involves a windshield survey of roadside conditions throughout the county, recorded every quarter mile, or as needed. The individual (or individuals) conducting the inventory must be able to identify weeds, distinguish native prairie vegetation from non-native grasses, and recognize areas of erosion and encroachment. If more than one individual is conducting the inventory, a leader must provide training to ensure accurate, uniform data collection.

LRTF funds can be used to hire someone to do the inventory. The roadside manager and county engineer are included in planning and training so the collected data will be of maximum use to the county. Six to eight weeks are allowed for the process, ideally in late summer and fall since this is the easiest time to identify stands of native vegetation.

Inventories funded by the LRTF must be recorded on GPS devices. Software for collecting and recording roadside inventory information has been developed and is available free of charge from the LRTF. The LRTF also funds the purchase of GPS units, mapping software and laptop computers.

People who may be hired to conduct a roadside vegetation inventory include:

  • Faculty and students from a nearby college who are familiar with conducting plant surveys.
  • Leland Searles, Consultant and Photographer, Leeward Solutionssearleslr@msn.com, 515-979-6457.

Identify prairie remnants

Every county in the state has a few roadsides containing small patches of native plants descended from the original prairie. Prairie remnants, as they are called, may possess just a few species of note or they may be quite diverse. Either way they provide a glimpse of the past and are valued as sources of genetic material and models for future prairie restoration. They all merit protection.

Look for prairie remnants where an old railroad right-of-way parallels the highway or where land may have been too rocky or too wet to till. A thorough survey of roadsides in your jurisdiction is the best way to document the location of remnants and prevent their destruction in the future. Generally, do not try to enhance a remnant by inter-seeding with native seed unless that seed comes from remnants in the immediate vicinity.   

Native seed (this is separate from LRTF grants)

Since 1998 nearly all the native seed planted in county right-of-way has been paid for with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funds secured by the TPC roadside program. The FHWA program that is the source of this grant has undergone several name changes over the years and is currently calls the Transportation Alternatives Set-Aside Program. These funds are approved year to year, and seed is distributed to participating counties and cities at no cost to them.

Counties must have an approved IRVM plan on file with the LRTF to request the seed and provide the labor and equipment to plant it. These native seed mixes typically have a value of $250–$350/acre and can only be used within road right-of-way. According to the grant requirements, the seed cannot be used along trails that are outside of the road right-of-way, for example.

In September of October of each year the TPC roadside program manager emails programs that are eligible to request seed and asks them how many acres worth of seed they would like to receive the following year. Roadside managers will need to provide maps of locations where seed will be drilled or planted using heavy equipment that may cause rutting of the soil greater than six inches. The TPC roadside program manager will submit this information to the DOT archaeologist for review to ensure no Indigenous burial sites will be impacted. Maps do not need to be provided for sites that will be hydroseeded or broadcast seeded since these seeding methods cause shallow soil disturbance that will not affect burial mounds.

The seed is typically distributed over a 2-day period in April, May, or June, at the shed south of the Tallgrass Prairie Center and all of the seed received must be planted by December 31 of the following year. The FHWA requires that every six months the TPC roadside program manager ask seed recipients to turn in a seed report form and maps showing where the seed was planted.

A few counties have created their own seed production plots to supplement the seed they obtain from the TPC roadside program. Counties may occasionally purchase seed from commercial sources beyond what they receive from the TPC.

Create any data collection tools and processes needed to evaluate the program

GIS mapping tools can be used to record data on roadside management activities such as brush cutting, spraying, and invasive species removal.