VDOT targets 59 trees following July accident

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Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

A month after a man was killed by a 40-ton oak tree that fell onto his car along Georgetown Pike, the Virginia Department of Transportation is set to remove 59 trees in the Great Falls area that its says "pose a safety risk to motorists."

VDOT spokeswoman Joan Morris said the project, expected to cost $66,000, will begin Monday and take about three weeks to complete. She said she hasn't heard much opposition from residents.

"I think people understand that what we're doing is necessary, and we've tried to make that clear," Morris said.

Still, arborists like Jared Powell would like to know exactly how officials decide which trees are hazardous.

"Removing those trees will affect more areas [than just Virginia]," said Powell of the nonprofit group Casey Trees, an organization dedicated to preserving area tree canopies.

The first trees to be cut down are at 700 River Bend Road and across from 630 Walker Road. Crews will continue down both streets before moving to other areas. Crews will remove 25 trees on River Bend Road, 15 on Browns Mill Road, seven on Beach Mill Road, six on Georgetown Pike, four on Walker Road and two on Utterback Store Road.

Two trees at the corner of Georgetown Pike and Walker Road, which have been cited as a concern by residents over the past month, will not be removed because VDOT does not consider them to be "an immediate danger" to motorists.

The tree-removal work will close traffic lanes for up to 15 minutes, Morris said, though teams will work during non-rush hours Monday through Saturday.

Despite the potential traffic delays, Bill Canis, co-chair of the Great Falls Citizens Association environment committee, said most people in Great Falls support the project because of concerns about the "dead trees and branches hanging out over the road."

Canis said "people have been very disturbed" since Albert Carl Roeth III, 64, of Great Falls, was killed last month by a red oak that toppled onto his car. And since many of the trees targeted for cutting are in wooded areas, Canis said their removal will be less obvious.

Each of the 59 trees is located within a VDOT right of way and is either dead or in decline with exposed roots, trunk and root decay or dead branches, Fairfax County officials said.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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