Safety at the heart of tree-clearing on U.S. 264

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BAILEY — It’s hard to ignore the removal of hundreds of trees along the U.S. 264 corridor in Nash County, but N.C. Department of Transportation officials said it’s all an effort to improve safety and visibility.

“The project is intended to accomplish several goals. Primarily, this is a safety clearing project that will serve to maintain the clear recovery zone by pushing the treeline back along that section of roadway,” said Byron Bateman, a roadside environmental engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation. “The clear recovery zone is an area without fixed objects that is adjacent to a highway and intended to provide safe passage and a recovery area for vehicles that veer off the roadway.”

Trees are being cleared just west of U.S. 264’s junction with N.C. 581 near Bailey to a point just east of the Nash-Wake county line.

Crews from Sawyer’s Land Developing in Belhaven began the $490,000 project in April and are slated to wrap up work later this month.

“(This project) will also eliminate a number of trees and limbs that could potentially fall into the roadway during hurricanes, snow and ice events, or even strong thunderstorms,” Bateman said. “Lastly, it will daylight roadway throughout the project area, particularly on the eastern and western ends of the project area, so that ice and snow will melt more quickly in chronic trouble spots when we have those events.”

Officials considered various environmental aspects when planning began for the project and Bateman said there will be no effect on streams, wetlands or riparian buffers.

“The vast majority of the wooded median will remain intact and undisturbed,” he said.

Once the trees are removed, the contractor will sell the marketable timber.

“This provision likely got us a better price on the tree-clearing work as well, since the contractor was able to market a commodity that may have been burned or gone to a landfill in the past,” Bateman said.

The N.C. Department of Transportation plans to plant some native trees and shrubs in the project area as well as low-maintenance turfgrass once the project is complete.