MDOT removes trees for safety, environmental issues

Traffic moves south along I-94 between Stevensville and Bridgman on Thursday, passing the tail end of a portion of land that was cleared of trees. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

Traffic moves south along I-94 between Stevensville and Bridgman on Thursday, passing the tail end of a portion of land that was cleared of trees. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BRIDGMAN — Many drivers anticipated orange barrels when the Michigan Department of Transportation announced a major repaving project on I-94.

What may have surprised area drivers was the clearing of about 100 feet of land along the stretch of freeway from Red Arrow Highway Exit 16 in Bridgman to Mile Marker 23, east of Puetz Road.

MDOT spokesman Nick Schirripa said part of the repaving project was clearing out trees and other vegetation in the right-of-way. He said that’s normally done in anticipation for a large construction project.

“Clearing out those big trees is something we need to do more frequently,” Schirripa said. “It’s definitely something people are going to see more of. It’s also going to be easier maintaining the drainage ditches.”

Schirripa said the clearing of trees comes with a safety factor and gives drivers a clear line of sight.

He said while it’s not a new practice, it may be the first time some people are seeing it.

“It’s not just a matter of clear-cutting the trees. There is some environmental impact as well,” Schirripa said. “For example, there is a certain kind of vine that grows around trees that funnels under pavement and breaks it up. The procedure has environmental, safety and maintenance factors in it.”

Work along the stretch of I-94 began in March and has a tentative completion date of Oct. 21.

The $13.9 million project will include bridge repairs and construction of median cable barriers, guardrails, culverts and the installation of freeway signs and right-of-way fences.

Schirripa said repairs are scheduled on the I-94 bridges over Lost Dunes Drive in Bridgman and over Puetz Road east of Stevensville.

MDOT will try to minimize the disruption for motorists, with single-lane closures during the day and double-lane closures limited to the night along the three-lane freeway, Schirripa said. There will also be temporary ramp closures at Exit 16 and Grand Mere Road Exit 22.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on April 8, 2016)

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