- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 29, 2015

WARREN, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Department of Transportation is paying $2.3 million to cover dead vegetation with mulch along a Detroit-area freeway, just a few years after a major landscaping project that put in plants, shrubs and trees instead of grass.

That’s the cost to have 53,700 cubic yards of mulch placed along Interstate 696 in parts of Oakland and Macomb counties, an area that stretches roughly from I-75 to I-94, the Detroit Free Press reported (https://on.freep.com/1PL4Ut8 ).

“We are remulching all of the beds (basically anywhere where there isn’t growth) with mulch,” MDOT spokeswoman Diane Cross said in an email. Crews have been using blower tubes to spray brown shredded bark mulch on the sloping hillsides.

The work comes ahead of a $620,000 replanting effort that’s scheduled to start in October, the newspaper reported. The apparent die-off of large stretches of the landscaping was evident this summer, less than two years after the completion of a $9.5 million landscaping project.

MDOT said money normally spent on mowing and maintaining the area was instead spent on weeding, pretreating for weeds, mulch and litter pickup. The agency also said some original plantings did well and that the project accomplished its goals.

The major landscaping subcontractor on the original I-696 Slope Restoration Project, W.H. Canon, is the prime contractor on the new projects. The company had maintenance responsibility for the original project before its completion, but MDOT has been responsible since 2013.

W.H. Canon CEO Patti Canon said details about the original project date to the period before she assumed her current role with the company.

About 71,600 plants, shrubs and trees were installed on both sides of the roughly 10-mile corridor for the original project. Extreme weather in recent years and the effects of road salt were some of the possible explanations for damage, officials and experts said.

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Information from: Detroit Free Press, https://www.freep.com


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