- Associated Press - Sunday, December 14, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Tree advocates and state transportation officials are at odds over whether plantings in urban areas are more beneficial to the environment or more detrimental to road safety.

The Courier-Journal (https://cjky.it/1vNRunj) reports the dispute has come to a head over 17 trees planted near Brownsboro Road in Metro Louisville to curb urban heat.

The newspaper reports the state has ordered the trees, which were put in at public expense, to be removed before Christmas for safety reasons.

Highways department chief district engineer Matt Bullock says if the trees aren’t removed, the state will take them out and charge City of Rolling Fields Commissioner Dan Tafel, who led the project to plant the trees.

Tafel says state rules are being selectively enforced and are too restrictive for urban areas like Louisville. He plans to appeal to the Transportation Cabinet.



Bullock says the trees are a threat to drivers who may run off the road, and they increase the cost for maintenance.

“I get the whole heat island and (concerns about) asphalt in the summer, but at the same time, we don’t want our roads covered,” Bullock said. “We are not anti-tree at the Transportation Cabinet. We are pro-safety.”

Tafel has the support of Henry Heuser Jr. and Katy Schneider, who co-chair a panel created by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer to increase tree cover in the city.

Heuser says the police may fit rural state highways where speed limits are faster, but aren’t appropriate “for the largest urban areas in the state. Our interest is in creating canopy cover for roads.”

Outgoing Metro Councilman Dan Fleming, who covered the $17,000 in tree-planting costs out of his discretionary funding, also supported Tafel.

“If they are going to remove those trees, then they need to remove all the other trees that are too close to state highways,” he said.

Bullock said limited staff and budget results in uneven enforcement.

“We realize there are trees up against (state) roadways everywhere,” Bullock said. “We cannot address every tree bigger than four inches within the clear zone, or we just couldn’t do anything else.”

Tree advocates say they want to not only save the trees, but get recognition that urban state highways with slower speed limits and curbs deserved different treatment than open country roadways.

“I feel we can come to a solution, but we need to get there,” said Gina O’Brien, executive director of Brightside, the city’s nonprofit partner that promotes beautification and tree planting. “I have a lot of (tree-planting) projects (pending), and a lot of them are on state roads.”

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Information from: The Courier-Journal, https://www.courier-journal.com

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