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Ask The Times: DOT, cities share task of maintaining medians
Trees line the median along U.S. 129 South near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Gainesville. When municipalities add landscaping to medians, they are responsible for the upkeep. Otherwise the Georgia Department of Transportation handles maintenance.

If you’ve been wondering about something in your community, Ask The Times is your place to get answers. The following questions were submitted by readers and answered through the efforts of our news staff.

Who is in charge of maintaining landscaping in medians?
The Georgia Department of Transportation is responsible for cutting grass and picking up litter on medians and shoulders, but sometimes municipalities install landscaping above what the DOT provides.

“When a community wants to make it pretty with plantings, they assume the maintenance of that section,” DOT District 1 spokeswoman Teri Pope said.

That’s the case with U.S. 129 at Limestone Parkway and before it intersects with West Ridge Avenue, where the city of Gainesville maintains trees.

“Gainesville is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the vegetation or we can choose to do away with the vegetation,” Gainesville Public Works Director David Dockery said. “At Limestone Parkway, we wanted something above and beyond what DOT would typically do for vegetation on that corridor.”

Pope said DOT works with municipalities to grant vegetation permits, but they are focused on ensuring all plantings are safe for drivers.

“You don’t want something in the clear zone that would make it more hazardous if you hit it,” Pope said. “We want whatever’s in the clear zone to be breakable so it doesn’t break people (if they wreck into it).”

If a car should hit a tree or the vegetation gets diseased and dies, Gainesville deals with its removal and replanting of a new tree, Dockery said.

“We don’t have an inspector that comes out and looks at (trees) on a regular basis, so basically what we do is just replant as it comes to our attention that trees are hit or dying,” he said, adding that disease and car-related damage are the main reasons for tree removal.

The city’s workers will remove and replant trees as needed, but if it’s beyond the crew’s capabilities, an outside service will be brought in, Dockery said.

“Dealing with trees running the gamut all the way from the small trees on some of the corridors to some of the big trees in right of ways,” he said. “We typically do it ourselves.”

The city won’t replace vegetation during the growing season, so replanting occurs from November to February.

To try and prevent trees from getting stress-related diseases the city typically uses native vegetation.

“We would try to plant vegetation that doesn’t require watering, typically stuff that the normal rainfall we get would be adequate for that type of vegetation,” Dockery said.

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