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Trees removed to widen I-10 and Scenic Hwy interchange
If you've driven by the Interstate 10 Scenic Highway Interchange recently, you might be wondering, "Where did all the trees go?!"
The mature live oaks were cleared out last week as part of a road-widening project and now some people are upset.
Crews are clearing the way for two water retention ponds that will eventually be located here at the Scenic Highway I-10 Interchange.
It's all part of a major Department of Transportation project.
The project will result in the widening of Interstate 10 between Davis Highway and the Escambia Bay Bridge.
Scenic Highway will also be widened between Whisper Way and Northpointe Parkway.
Sound walls like these will eventually be installed, along with new ramps and those drainage ponds.
State authorities say crews installing all of that new stuff need room, room that was formerly taken up by live oak trees.
"It would be nice if they could've saved some of the trees. They're irreplaceable, said taxpayer Milton Rogers.
We spoke with taxpayers who were driving through the area about the clear-cutting operation.
"It's just a necessary part of widening the road, Rogers said.
"As you go over the interstate, now there's nothing there. So it was a beautiful area. Now it's barren, said taxpayer Joe Cunningham.
State and county authorities say the water retention ponds will prevent storm run-off from draining into Escambia Bay.
And they say they had to choose between removing the trees for the ponds or forcing eight families around Interstate 10 to move from their homes.
"I think they went way too far, Cunningham said.
Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson has asked the state to replant the area with mature, native trees when the work is complete.
A Florida Department of Transportation spokesman says the interchange will be re-landscaped with input from local authorities.
Those live oaks take as much as 100 years to become what they have. But it's done now, Rogers said.
The entire project, including the landscaping, is expected to be finished by the fall of 2016.