A top Easton official says a state highway project along Route 22 is cutting into the city's reputation as a place that cares about trees.
At Wednesday's city council meeting, Mayor Sal Panto said he was "upset" with the way PennDOT is doing maintenance along the Route 22 corridor, from 25th Street to 4th Street. "They just rip trees down. [The] 13th Street [interchange] is virtually naked," Panto said. "And we haven't been consulted about it."
Panto said Thursday that Easton has deep roots in the Tree City USA program sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation, the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters. "The city of Easton has been a Tree City for most of the last three decades," Panto said, "and what PennDOT is doing goes against what Easton does with trees."
On Thursday, Sean Brown, PennDOT's district spokesman, explained the reasons behind cutting back and removing trees and brush, which is known as "daylighting." "Our concern is the safety of motorists and reclaiming the right of way," he said. "Limbs falling onto the highway could cause major crashes, as can anything that impairs drivers' vision."
Brown also said trees that overhang Route 22 can cause problems in winter. "They can affect [snow] plowing and can cause the road to deteriorate a bit by allowing more snow and ice to build up on the roadway," he said.
Panto said he would have liked to see a different approach to the trees: "Trim them rather than tear them down."
Brown said the tree trimming and cutting is part of a $7.1 million road project that began in July and will finish sometime in October.
He said PennDOT "respects what the city says, but our duty is to maintain the safety of the roadway. ... It can be very shocking at first [to see the cut back], but it's for the best, we feel. And after a while it becomes much less noticeable. "