Connecticut Department of Transportation
Roadside tree removal practices
8 August 2013.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) is responsible for the maintenance of all state-owned roads and highways in Connecticut and it is the Department’s primary mission to keep the infrastructure safe for motorists and efficient for the movement of people, goods and commerce. To this end, it is the Department’s duty to prune, remove or trim - dead, dying, decaying or otherwise compromised trees and vegetation in the state-owned right-of-way such as the shoulder area and center-median of highways, roadways and ramps. The CTDOT employs tree wardens in each of their four districts who report to a State Licensed Arborist. These employees are trained in arboriculture, the science of tree care, and are responsible for identifying dead, dying, decaying trees and establishing tree management priorities along Connecticut state roadways.
The maintenance of shade trees and other vegetation on state roads and highways falls within Connecticut General Statute 13a-140. The statute grants the Commissioner of Transportation the authority to cut, remove or prune any tree, shrub or other vegetation located within the highway right-of- way, whenever necessary, for the safe convenient travel by the public.
Tree pruning and removal, as well as vegetation removal is typically a routine and day-to-day activity for the Department, but following Tropical Storm Irene and the 2011 October Snow Storm, Governor Malloy put together a Two Storm Panel to assess the state’s response to the two devastating storms on how the state can better prepare for future disasters. The Two Storm Panel report recommended increasing Connecticut Department of Transportation Tree Maintenance Budget for trimming and removing dead, dying and structurally impaired trees at an accelerated rate. Trees being removed have been positively identified as a potential hazard to the traveling public. Removals also include trees and brush that obscure sight-lines or have the potential to fall on the state roadways.
Additionally, the Department is removing trees and brush, healthy and unhealthy that exist within the “clear zone.” The “clear zone” is an unobstructed area beyond the edge of the roadway that provides an unencumbered, impact-free buffer or clear area for errant vehicles that unintentionally exit the roadway travel surface. Clear Zone on all major highways with design speeds of 60 mph is 30 feet plus.
Removal of overhead trees and vegetation also increases sunlight onto road surfaces which in turn, raises pavement temperatures. During winter storms this increase in road surface temperatures has been proven to accelerate improved road conditions, as well as to reduce labor costs, equipment costs and the amount of winter deicing materials used.
The Department is completely committed to the safety of the motoring public and the efficiency of our transportation network. At the same time, the Department understands the aesthetic and environmental value of healthy vegetation and trees. As such, the Department will continue to make reasonable efforts to preserve trees and aesthetic appeal if safety and/or efficiency will not be compromised by doing so.
Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) conducts all tree clearing around power lines. CTDOT crews are not qualified, or equipped to work within 10 feet of power lines in accordance with OSHA regulations. CL&P has been working on a 4 year cyclical program for clearing and maintaining their lines.
CL&P coordinates tree clearing efforts on state roads through the CTDOT District tree wardens via an encroachment permit. During major weather events, CL&P and CTDOT will coordinate efforts to restore emergency transportation and power routes within Connecticut.