Franklin — Saving the trees on South North Cape Road during reconstruction will cost the city some money, but the total cost of the project will remain less than originally planned.
At the meeting on June 3, the Common Council unanimously approved to spend $50,000 to save trees along South North Cape Road that were in danger of being removed due to reconstruction.
The road's reconstruction has been a contested issue with residents in recent months, after several homeowners vehemently opposed any construction that would result in tree removal.
Because the road is owned by Milwaukee County, city officials — led by County Supervisor and former alderman Steve Taylor — deliberated multiple times with the county staff before reaching a favorable alternative.
The county agreed to pay between $1.25 million and $1.5 million for the reconstruction, which would include 3-foot shoulders on each side, if the city paid for its maintenance once the project was complete.
The two-mile road will be split into two reconstruction phases over the next two years. Phase one would include the stretch from West Speedway to West Scherrei Drive — about one-third of the total road — and is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
Tom Riha, city arborist, identified 21 trees — mainly oak trees — in phase one that could be saved with the aid of culverts in lieu of steep ditches needed for the road repair.
"With the 3-foot shoulders on each side of the road, the ditches will be pushed back toward the trees," said City Engineer John Bennett. "If we can enclose those ditches (by using culverts), then we won't disturb the roots, and we can save the trees."
Many of the larger trees that will be saved are at least 100 years old, Riha said.
"We looked for trees with a large diameter, that were in good condition and were a valuable species," Riha, who is also the city's wide equipment operator. "We didn't want to put money into trees that had already been affected by Emerald Ash Borer or had been cut to make way for power lines.
"There are also quite a few trees along the road that won't be affected. We just have to make room for the slight road expansion."
The cost of saving
Although the trees are county property, saving them would be a city expense, Bennett said.
In addition to the $50,000 for phase one, Bennett estimated that saving trees in phase two — the remaining two-thirds of the road — could cost $100,000.
Fortunately, the city allocated a much larger amount for the project in its 2014 budget.
Early plans for the road's reconstruction called for a sidewalk and bike path, said Paul Rotzenberg, director of finance and treasurer, so the city allocated $800,000 in the budget to be used to fund the improvements.
Because the final rural design does not include a sidewalk and bike path, the total cost of the project fell to approximately $328,000, including the $100,000 anticipated to save trees on the rest of the road next year.
City staff noted that the remaining funds allocated for North Cape Road reconstruction could then be used for the Pleasant View Park project.
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