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Sustainable roadsides emerge

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bonnie Mckenna

TxDOT incorporates landscaping program

For the past five years, TxDOT has been busy landscaping more than 29,000 acres of land along roadsides in the six counties that make up the Houston District.

Part of the Green Ribbon project, initiated in 1999, is a master plan for the district architectural projects. Each area has a signature design.

The need to incorporate a higher level of aesthetic landscaping along roadsides has been a result of demands by local communities and legislative demands.

“This area is designated as the woodland area, hence the new decorative designs seen on the new freeway construction resemble trees,” said Dana Cote, TxDOT landscape architect.

Another part of the project is to landscape the roadsides using sustainable and ornamental trees and shrubs.

“One of our main goals with the new landscaping was to eliminate mowing on the right-of-ways,” he said. “There were concerns that the reforestation had to be accepted by the communities. In other words, they had to understand there would be no mowing.”

TxDOT has been assisted by private landscaping entities, Trees for Houston, Houston-Galveston Area Council, private individuals and corporations to replant the roadways.

“Congressman Ted Poe also helped fund the planting projects with $500,000,” said Cote.

Amending the soils along the roadways has been an ongoing project because there is no top soil for the roots of the plants to take hold. Initially, TxDOT used hard compost to recondition the soil, but because of the expense and amount of compost needed, they are now using ‘tea compost.’ The tea compost is hard compost that is brewed into a tea-like solution that is easy to apply and designed to put the needed micro-organisms back into the soil.

“Soil is engineered in place to hold the roadways in place, and it is needed for sustainable vegetation,” Cote said. “The planting projects are designed to recondition the soil, but we still have problems because of roadway run-off.”

To date, more than one million trees, 326,000 shrubs and seven billion wildflower seeds have been planted along the roadways of the Houston District.

“What we are trying to do is coming to fruition,” said Cote. “The ideal situation will be self-sustaining.”

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