RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Trees along the H-2 freeway have been cut near the Mililani Mauka offramp. The state Transportation Department temporarily stopped Friday a project to remove 75 trees that it said were a threat to motorists along the H-2 freeway from Ka Uka Boulevard to the Mililani interchange. CLICK FOR LARGE
H-2 freeway clearcutting paused
Community concern halts a tree removal project along H-2 freeway
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The state Transportation Department suspended Friday a project to cut down trees lining the H-2 freeway from Waipio to Mililani, promising to meet with an environmental organization before continuing the job, which was largely met with public disapproval.
Transportation officials will meet with members of Outdoor Circle, who said they received more than 100 calls from angry and concerned residents since the project to remove 75 potentially hazardous trees started a few weeks ago.
Crews will finish work on trees they began pruning and removing, but they will not start on any new trees.
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Nani* Ahakuelo-Chernisky commutes every day from her home in Mililani to her job in Honolulu, admiring the green grass and tall trees along part of her drive.
Like many residents who drive on the H-2 freeway, she was shocked and sad to see trees tagged with orange paint fall to power saws without knowing beforehand about the state's tree removal project.
"There was no prior notification given, and they just mowed down a large number of trees," Ahakuelo-Chernisky said yesterday. "They just ravaged the area. It looks so barren now."
Responding to community complaints, the state Transportation Department temporarily stopped Friday the removal of 75 trees that it says were a threat to motorists on the H-2 freeway from Ka Uka Boulevard to the Mililani interchange.
So far, crews have pruned or cut down 53 trees along the northbound side of the freeway, said transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa.
Transportation officials will meet with the Outdoor Circle, a grass-roots environmental organization, before continuing the project -- a consultation that typically occurs before big tree removals start.
However, in this case that did not happen because officials wanted to start the work promptly, Ishikawa said.
Bob Loy, Outdoor Circle's director of environmental programs, said more than 100 residents called to complain about the project. Many were concerned about the beauty of the highway, and some Mililani Mauka residents were worried because the trees served as a noise buffer.
"We've received more calls with this tree removal project than any other project in the last five years," Loy said. "Our concern is whether the Department of Transportation removed the right trees for the right reasons. From looking at what they've done so far, the trees don't appear to be hazardous."
The project started several weeks ago after a large albizia tree branch fell and damaged an emergency call box near the Ka Uka Boulevard offramp in June.
Albizia trees, which are common along that stretch of the freeway, pose a threat since their branches become brittle and snap easily, Ishikawa said. Also, many of the trees' trunks were hollow because of termite damage, he said.
"The trees that we were concerned about were the ones right up against the freeway," Ishikawa said. "Those were the ones that posed imminent risk to drivers, and we're willing to sit down with Outdoor Circle to address their concerns."
Crews are finishing up work they began on the northbound side of the freeway. However, will not touch any new trees, Ishikawa said.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
>>Mililani-Mauka resident Nani Ahakuelo-Chernisky's name was misspelled in a Page A6 article on July 31 about the state Transportation Department temporarily suspending a tree removal project on the H-2 freeway.