to an old story, the wife of the first Texas State Forester was taking
a train through West Texas to join her husband who had already taken
his position in East Texas. After mentioning her husband’s new position
to a fellow passenger, the passenger looked out at the passing landscape
and said something to the effect of: “Lady, Texas doesn’t need a State
Forester." He then added: "- or else it needs one real bad.”
letter to the editor of the Pampa News (Online) got our attention.
The letter was from TxDOT Amarillo District Engineer Mark E. Tomlinson.
In the letter Mr. Tomlinson addresses the “proposed tree removal project
on U.S. 60 and U.S. 83 in Hemphill,
and Lipscomb counties.”
Mr. Tomlinson offered these eye-opening statistics:
“From 1992 to 2001, 303 fixed object crashes [on the highways mentioned
above] were recorded. These crashes resulted in eight fatalities and
203 injuries. Seven of the fatalities and 11 of the injuries were
Our curiosity forces us to ask the question: Has anyone has recorded
how many of these “tree-related” fatalities were beverage alcohol-related.
With five counties involved, seven fatalities in nine years - that
about equals the carnage that occurs on an average “safe” Houston
Mr. Tomlinson then uses understated comedy to make his point:
“While trees are often visually pleasing, they are also extremely
through contest sensitive design”
Engineer Tomlinson goes on to say:
“I hope you know that we do not suggest a project of this (sic) lightly.”
TxDOT has, for many years, been a leader in creating roadside beauty
through the planting of numerous trees, shrubs and other plant material.
We also work diligently to preserve existing beauty through contest
sensitive design and good maintenance practices. We actively manage
this land to preserve its beauty and usefulness through sound environmental
stewardship. We take this responsibility very seriously."
Old Dilemma of the Interlaced Fundamental Mission VS Factoring In
Continuing to quote from Mr. Tomlinson's letter: "As it is with many
things in life, though, there are other needs and priorities to be
considered as well. Striking a balance between these potentially conflicting
issues is one of the most difficult things we do. Interlaced through
this is our fundamental mission to serve the people of Texas and others
who use our highways. Therefore, we listen closely to people's opinions
and concerns and work diligently to address these in our projects
and operations. We also factor in sound engineering practice and experience
to ensure the creation and maintenance of the safest, most effective
transportation system possible."
please stay alert.
"In this case, we are very concerned about safety on U.S. 60 and U.S.
83. We believe these numbers are significant and that we need to develop
a project that addresses these fixed object crashes. For decades,
TxDOT has worked toward providing a "forgiving roadside" on our highways.
Approximately one third of all highway fatalities are associated with
single vehicle, run-off-the-road crashes. We cannot predict precisely
where these vehicles will leave the road and cannot control the causes
for the departures. Therefore, it is vitally important that the roadside
be free of fixed objects. This concept has been incorporated into
our Roadway Design Manual and is required whenever we undertake roadway
rehabilitation or expense."
"We are also considering the feasibility of transplanting some trees
and possibly planting new trees in safe areas."
Note: Cutting down mature trees that have managed to grow in a
harsh environment and replace them with struggling transplanted trees
that require at least some initial maintenance (including watering)
is not an equal proposition. Transplanting trees is not as simple
as it sounds - especially in Panhandle soil.
Mr. Tomlinson has given a “tentative letting date" of October 2005
and concludes his letter with: "In the interim, if you should have
any questions or need additional information, please contact me at
departments range from engineering to litter control to promoting
tourism, traffic counts, mapping, prairie dog poisoning, guardrail
repair, etc. It is our hope that TxDoT doesn't take on the additional
responsibility of tree removal, especially in the Panhandle
where they may have to import chainsaws from East
Editorials are only made by fools like me;
but only God can make a "visually pleasing, extremely solid object."
© John Troesser
"They shoe horses, don't
they?" July 23, 2004 Column