Dear Secretary Wilson: The Interstate 10 Widening construction project, SPN H.004100.2 / Federal Aid Project No. H004100 (hereafter referred to as “The I-10 Widening Project”) is crucial to the continued growth and improvement of the City of Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish (EBRP), and my administration is supportive of all efforts to engage our citizens about the project. As part of my conversations with groups regarding the future of transportation and beautification in our parish from the I-10 Widening Project I would like to strongly encourage the Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development (DOTD) to thoughtfully & thoroughly plan and budget for complete design and implementation of renewed landscaping, with special emphasis on the replanting of trees along the project corridor and at all affected interchanges. I also encourage DOTD’s project team to work closely with Baton Rouge Green, a non-profit community partner to both EBRP and DOTD, in the planning and implementation of this renewed landscape. Baton Rouge Green has served the vital role of maintaining over 4,300 trees along major roadways in our area since 1990, and independently raises its own private funding to do so. We ask that DOTD provide adequate funding to replace the trees and landscape that must be removed as part of The I-10 Widening Project, and to continue to partner with Baton Rouge Green in their work to maintain these trees as they have for over 30 years. Specifically, my office asks that language enumerating the following procedures and specifications be included in the environmental section of final contracts for design and construction with any consulting party selected to complete The I-10 Widening Project: 1) DOTD/Builder/Design-Builder shall coordinate tree protection and/or replacement with Baton Rouge Green, and in accordance with Baton Rouge Green specifications, as well as DOTD’s Tree Protection standards and best management practices. 2) If it is determined that damage to trees is unavoidable, DOTD/Builder/Design-Builder will work with Baton Rouge Green to minimize and mitigate damage, or design and budget accordingly to plant new trees to appropriately offset the canopy loss of those trees, per Baton Rouge Green’s specifications. To prevent net canopy loss, a target ratio of 3:1 replacement of trees removed or severely damaged with 15-gallon (or similar size) specimens, should be established. 3) The financial burden of protecting and/or replacing trees shall be placed on the DOTD/Builder/Design-Builder as part of the final construction budget for The I-10 Widening Project. My administration sees this proactive course as the best possible approach to achieve a final outcome satisfactory to all stakeholders involved in this immense undertaking, especially the citizens of EBRP. Your due consideration to this request is greatly appreciated, and I thank you for the continuous work you and your team are supporting to see this critical project to fruition. As always, if there is anything for which I can be of assistance to you, do not hesitate to contact me.
DOTD will be replacing trees in accordance with their Significant Tree policy and will replant where, possible in coordination with Baton Rouge Green. Likewise, DOTD has and will continue to work cooperatively with Baton Rouge Green through the design and construction process.