For the love of trees: What’s the fate of the trees felled by the I-64 Widening Project?

VDOT has coordinated with the design and build contractor, Shirley Contracting Company, to properly and legally “dispose” of the felled trees. IWYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
VDOT has coordinated with the design and build contractor, Shirley Contracting Company, to properly and legally “dispose” of the felled trees. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

For more than three years, the Virginia Department of Transportation and its contractors have been steadily chipping away at the Interstate 64 Widening Project.

The project has included clearing trees, expanding overpasses and setting up bright orange cones to direct drivers through the road work.

As the project has progressed, new lanes have taken the place of miles of trees inhabiting the previously-wooded medians.

So, what happens to all those trees after they’re cut down?

VDOT has coordinated with the design and build contractor, Shirley Contracting Company, to properly and legally “dispose” of the felled trees, said Brittany McBride Nichols, VDOT spokeswoman.

“Per specifications, trees and limbs greater than three inches are disposed of as saw logs, pulpwood, fire wood or other usable material, etc.,” McBride Nichols wrote in an email. “Stumps and material less than three inches is processed into wood chips.”

McBride Nichols said the logs are also taken to nearby mills and factories for various uses, but did not have the specific names of the businesses because the cleared materials are the property and responsibility of the contractor.

VDOT is not involved in the sale of the trees because they become the property of the contractor during construction.

The money

Any money from salvaging the trees belongs to the contractor, and would offset their costs of clearing the land.

“In theory, this savings would be passed through a lower bid price for the project,” McBride Nichols said.

The contract with Shirley Contracting Company was awarded for $178.3 million by the Commonwealth Transportation Board. The contract covers Segment III of the project, from about 1.15 miles west of exit 234 to about 1.05 miles west of exit 242.

Shirley Contracting Company was also contracted to do Segment I of the project, which is further east.

VDOT has coordinated with the design and build contractor, Shirley Contracting Company, to properly and legally “dispose” of the felled trees. IWYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
VDOT has coordinated with the design and build contractor, Shirley Contracting Company, to properly and legally “dispose” of the felled trees. (Southside Daily/Sarah Fearing)

Replanting the trees

Although contractors are currently clearing the land to make way for new roads, VDOT is planning to replant some vegetation once the road widening is complete.

The project landscape plans are currently being developed by a license landscape architect, McBride Nichols said.

The National Park Service, York County and VDOT are working together to complete the plans, which will include partial screening of stormwater management facilities, noise barriers and some replanting of vegetation.

A majority of the planted species will be native or indigenous to the area, McBride Nichols said. The goal is to keep plants that require minimal maintenance and reflect historic and cultural features of the area.

Trees include oak, beech, holly, magnolia, gum, metasequoia with understory including a mixture of kousa, redbud, chionanthus, sourwood, willow and holly.

The Colonial Parkway will be screened with kousa and redbud trees.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.