August 28, 2007
Trees and the Universities line

We know that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Universities line says that nearly 200 trees may be affected by the construction and location of the line. Christof listed mitigation of this as a wish list item for Metro. If this Q&A with Metro chairman David Wolff is any indication, someone is listening.

Q: Some who live or work along Richmond fear that the actual number of trees lost will be much larger than 197 when you add trees on each side of the street to those in the median. What's the real total?

A: I don't know the actual number, but it will be less than the one in the DEIS report because we're very much committed to transplanting and replacing trees.

Q: A lot of people will see the loss of mature oaks as a huge negative. Two sets of tracks and boarding platforms take up space, and the trains need room overhead for the power line. How can you avoid taking out a lot of trees?

A: Some will have to be removed, but with others you may be able to go in and have professional pruning done so the wires can go underneath them. A lot of trees may need to be picked up and moved 10 or 20 feet, but they will stay in the corridor to keep the feeling of greenery and shade and beauty.

Q: We're talking about live oaks, with deep roots and massive trunks. How can you transplant those?

A: Some may be too big to move, but trees larger than you might think can be transplanted. I have two live oaks in front of my house that came from the parking lot in front of Saks Fifth Avenue, and they're probably 12 inches (in diameter).


Q: Were you surprised at such large numbers?

A: I was surprised, but what happens with these environmental impact statements is that they make you define the maximum number that can be impacted and then you work that down.

Q: Are you hamstrung by not having a definite route until next year?

A: Not really because all the alternatives have some overlap, and we have an idea from the DEIS what the probabilities are.

Q: Is Metro planning to do this alone? That's a lot of trees, and moving them isn't easy or cheap.

A: I've asked [board member Burt] Ballanfant to meet with Trees for Houston, meet with the Greenway Plaza people, the Neartown people -- anybody in the neighborhood who wants to have input.

That all sounds good. As with many things associated with this project, the result ought to be measurable, so we'll see if the actions are as good as the words.

In related news, look for an in-person report from yesterday's public meeting by Alex Ragsdale later today.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 28, 2007 to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles