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After months of work north of Wilson County, crews are now working to thin the local tree line along Interstate 95 as part of a larger-scale N.C. Department of Transportation safety project.
“The rule of thumb is to keep trees at least 50 feet from the roadway. We want to clear the trees, not just of limbs, but the whole trees for three reasons,” said N.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Andrew Barksdale. “If someone has an accident and goes off the shoulder, we want to give them some room rather than immediately hitting a tree. Secondly, when a tropical storm or hurricane blows through, if trees have long branches and the wind knocks them down, it can close the road. Lastly, we do it for safety during winter storms because if the trees are closer to the right-of-way, not as much sunshine hits the roads and melts the snow or ice.”
Crews also spray herbicide and pesticide to control the underbrush with trees turned into mulch and spread at the woodline.
“In the state, we were lacking the funds to really be aggressive about keeping the right-of-ways clear, so we are getting caught up all across the state,” Barksdale said.
Trees were thinned out along U.S. 264 this summer as part of this increased effort.
“We began doing this tree-trimming work last fall, and we hope to get everything done by next spring,” Barksdale said. “It is something that takes time and can’t be completed overnight.”
The crew working in Wilson County is with Woodland Vegetation Management of Farmville. Barksdale said contractors are used to supplement efforts by transportation department employees.
“We’re hoping to get caught up on the right-of-ways and manage it with regular trimming,” he said. “Because we’re getting caught up, the trimming looks more dramatic, but once we’re caught up, we’ll just trim here and there, which is more cost-effective.”