Trees on H-2 removed as hazards
Workers have been cutting down trees along the H-2 freeway, northbound, right after the ramp from Ka Uka Boulevard down to the Kipapa Gulch bridge. There is a right-lane closure as they are working. Why are they cutting the trees down and ruining the landscaping?
Answer: The 75 trees being cut pose safety and fire hazards, according to the state Department of Transportation.
But the cutting has spurred dozens of concerned calls to the Outdoor Circle, which said it usually is consulted prior to the removal of trees "of this magnitude."
"Unfortunately, that didn't happen with this project," said Bob Loy, the Outdoor Circle's director of environmental programs.
The Transportation Department did notify the Outdoor Circle about the H-2 tree removal prior to the cuttings, said spokesman Scott Ishikawa, but did acknowledge "we did not consult with them on this tree removal" because "we felt this was a safety issue that needed to be taken care of promptly."
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
The remains of felled trees lay along the H-2 freeway on Friday morning just a few hundred yards north of the Ka Uka Boulevard interchange next to the northbound lanes. CLICK FOR LARGE
He said a large Albizia tree branch fell and damaged an emergency call box next to the right lane of traffic near the Ka Uka offramp in June. In 2004, an Albizia uprooted and fell across the H-2 Mililani Mauka offramp.
Ishikawa described the Albizia as "a pretty-looking tree often confused with the monkeypod tree," but said it "is the fastest-growing and most hazardous tree in Hawaii due to its extremely weak branching. Albizia is the cause of most vehicular property claims against DOT from falling branches."
Another problem, he said, is that the branches of the Albizia tree "grow out so wide that they block sunlight" from the department's solar-powered emergency phones.
The June incident with the damaged call box prompted staff -- including a certified tree arborist and Imua Landscaping -- to inspect the trees adjacent to H-2.
"Many of the 75 affected trees to be pruned or removed had either branches hanging over the traffic lanes, or the trunks were hollow or filled with beehives," Ishikawa said.
He emphasized that only the Albizia and other trees that are close to the roadway and not in good health are being removed.
"We are trying to create a safe 25- to 30-foot buffer zone between the trees and the H-2 drivers," Ishikawa said. "Trees along the upper slopes of the H-2 are not being removed."
The trees are being defoliated first, then the trunks are being cut. The tree removal work will encompass both directions of H-2 and last up to two months, Ishikawa said.
After that, the Department of Transportation plans to replace them with more "friendly" native species of trees by the end of the year.
Loy said the Outdoor Circle would have liked to have had "the opportunity to have trees assessed by an independent arborist to determine if all of the doomed trees are structurally hazardous or if their locations present a threat to motorists."
Ishikawa said the department does plan to consult with the Outdoor Circle on the removal of Albizia trees along the Pali and Likelike highways and the H-3 freeway.
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