In a Dec. 13 letter to the editor, Fred Reiss, of Urbana, questioned the Missouri Department of Transportation’s efforts to remove trees near state roads and wondered why MoDOT would use out-of-state contractors to do this work. The short answers are safety and state law, and each is addressed below.
• We are eliminating obstacles people can hit if they fail to keep their vehicles on the road. Studies show that vehicles leaving the roadway frequently hit trees or utility poles. Those collisions produced 16 percent of fatalities and 13 percent of disabling injuries on Missouri roads between 2005 and 2007.
To help provide protection, we have tried to make roads more forgiving of driver mistakes, tire blowouts and other such circumstances. We have added guardrail and guard cable to deflect vehicles, and we have removed other obstacles such as trees, creating “clear” zones that help drivers regain control or keep their vehicles from crashing. Another reason to remove these trees is to keep the trees or their large limbs from falling across the roadway during high winds or ice storms.
Tree-removal is one of 10 strategies for reducing highway fatalities outlined by the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, of which MoDOT is a member. Removing trees growing close to roadways is needed. It is money well-spent. We are doing the right thing.
• The state has an open, competitive bidding process for state contracts, and it makes no distinction as to the location of a bidder’s business. The tree-removal project we completed in April in Stone, Taney and Christian counties drew 12 bidders. The lowest, responsive and responsible bid for the work in Stone and Taney counties was turned in by Arbormasters Tree Service. of Shawnee Mission, Kan. The successful bidder for the contract in Christian County was Bradford Environmental Cleanup. of Neosho. MoDOT is obligated under state law to accept those bids, regardless of where in the U.S. the company is located.
MoDOT sought bids in October for a spring 2011 project to remove 413 trees along various state roads in Hickory, Dallas, Laclede, Taney, Ozark, Douglas, Wright and Texas counties. We received two bids – one from a Missouri company and the other from an Alabama company. Both bids came in higher than our budget of $200,000 and were rejected. So we are taking bids again in January.