- Associated Press - Friday, March 7, 2014

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - A highway bypass in Central Texas will be rerouted to save a stand of ancient oaks that were under threat of being cut down, according to state transportation officials.

The stand south of College Station includes a 500-year-old oak considered one of the oldest trees in Texas. Plans did not call for that oak to be razed, but there were concerns the development would harm it.

The Texas Department of Transportation this week decided to redesign the road, the Houston Chronicle reported (https://bit.ly/1cBr3eD ) Friday.

“This is one of those textbook examples that we are going to teach our upcoming engineers around the state that doesn’t compromise safety, enables us to have an environmentally friendly solution we came to with the community and gets done in a cost-effective manner,” TxDOT Deputy Director John Barton said. “This is an urban design in a rural setting, but it’s the solution that works for this area.”

A longstanding dispute had pitted the family that owns the land against TxDOT. The solution appears to hinge on using a narrower highway median to allow the bypass to be built around the oaks. New rural highways typically are designed with wide, grassy medians for safety and drainage.

With construction scheduled to begin in April, Regina McCurdy and her relatives were waging a final appeal to save the trees after seven years of negotiations. Her family has owned the land for nearly 150 years. She told the Chronicle that if state officials follow through with the plan, then the outcome will be considered a victory.

“That’s wonderful news, but I am real apprehensive,” McCurdy said. “That’s awesome; I just need to see it.”

Four of the oaks - each 200 to 300 years old - were to be removed. Six others, including the massive 500-year-old oak, are close by.

An arborist will monitor the trees during construction to make sure the work doesn’t weaken or kill them, Barton said.

“I know sometimes people feel like their government doesn’t listen … but we like that input because it lets us come up with solutions,” Barton said.

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Information from: Houston Chronicle, https://www.houstonchronicle.com


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