SANDWICH (CBS) - Drivers who routinely use Route 6 on the Cape have likely noticed all of the trees in a stretch of median almost all gone.
"I don't know what the concerns were with the trees but it took a lot of the beauty away," said Sagamore resident Heather Gallo. "I think it's kind of bare now."
State Representative Randy Hunt, who represents part of the Cape in the Massachusetts legislature, says he's been besieged by emails and Facebook messages from angry constituents over so many trees wiped out.
"I see no reason for mowing down perfectly healthy 30 to 40-year old trees," said Hunt.
In an email to WBZ-TV, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said there were a number of reasons for clearing the trees, including public safety, but the project has been halted for the time being.
"And I think part of what people come down here for the Cape is the ambiance, the nature, the scenery, and it's horrific, it's absolutely horrific what they've done," said Harwich resident Chuck O'Connor.
Besides environmental and beauty issues, some worry the project may have created a safety hazard.
In some sections there's nothing to stop a wayward driver from crossing the median and crashing into oncoming traffic.
"We're concerned that they're taking a situation and actually making it worse with the clearing," said Hunt.
DOT officials say the project does include clearing trees from the the full width of the median in certain sections of the eight-mile stretch of Route 6 from the canal to the Sandwich/Barnstable line.
"The clearing is to reestablish a safe clear zone, which allows space for drivers who may lose control of their vehicle to either pull over or get out of the roadway to a safe area, or space to recover or regain control," said MassDOT Deputy Communications Director Michael Verseckes in an email. "The clearing also helps by improving sight distance along curves. Also, during high winds and storms, removal of the growth prevents any trees or limbs from landing onto the roadway and either making contact with vehicles or blocking the road."
The statement says for now the work has been stopped.
"Effective last night, we are halting the ongoing clearing while we work to schedule a site visit with some local officials who have expressed concern over the extent of the clearing. The purpose of the site visit is to get a sense of the extent of the area that has been cleared and to ensure that the project is staying within the specified limits...this area has not been cleared for quite some time so in some cases the clearing appears to be quite extensive – additionally in some cases, there were mature trees that were growing on the "inside" of guardrail in certain locations, which is a safety hazard. "
Hunt believes some of the clearing is unnecessary.
"I get that you can't put the toothpaste back in the tube," said Hunt. "However, it's important to me to know what's the plan for Route 6 east of the Barnstable town line. None of us were aware that there was going to be a complete tree clearing of everything that's in the median."
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