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.
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.
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.