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Diseased, Fallen Trees Cause Lane Closures Along Millhopper Road

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"A limp branch from a water oak sticks out from underneath the brush. The water oaks and other trees along Millhopper road have been plagued by death and disease, causing some to fall onto the street below. Photo courtesy of Heather Martin, Alachua County Public Works."
The water oaks and other trees along Millhopper road have been plagued by death and disease, causing some to fall onto the street below. – Photo courtesy of Heather Martin, Alachua County Public Works.

Heavy rains have not only created perils for Gainesville motorists in the form of puddles and potholes.

Drivers should also be on the lookout for debris from waterlogged trees that have been falling onto roads.

The trees, which were dead or diseased before being soaked by the rains, pose such a risk to drivers that the county has closed lanes on Millhopper Road between NW 43rd Street and San Felasco State Park this week, according to an update on Alachua County’s website.

“There is a three-pronged issue,” said Heather Martin, an Alachua County horticulturist with Alachua County Public Works. “That particular road has been heavily waterlogged. We’ve had a couple trees fall recently due to the waterlogged conditions, and we had a concerned citizen call in a work order asking us to evaluate the entire roadway.”

On Monday, contractors with Walt’s Tree Service began work to remove the dead and diseased trees and clear debris from the road.

“It’s not really any particular disease,” Martin said. “When we say diseased it can be anything; there’s rusts, there’s rots, there’s different things.”

While a number of trees have been affected, the main victims have been water oaks, she said.

“When [water oaks] have any damage, they will rot, and they often just naturally have a shorter lifespan,” Martin said. “Which causes them to start rotting and dropping branches, or the top will just rot out and they fall apart. They’re nearing the end of their lifespan.”

Although this has been happening frequently along Millhopper Road, it’s not a particularly common issue in Gainesville or Alachua County, Martin said.

“We have had occasional trees crossing roads,” she said. “We’ll have one here or one there. But, Millhopper Road has had three trees cross the road within the last two weeks.”

Motorists may feel inconvenienced by the lane closures that these trees are causing, but Martin said that they shouldn’t.

The single lane closures to remove the debris are usually 15 minutes or less, Martin said.  “It’s been timed that it’s usually no longer than a typical traffic light.”

The cost of the tree removal won’t be known until the project has been completed, Martin said.

“We feel it’s better for the safety of the motorists now that we have evaluated the road,” she said. “When we have been notified that there is a dead tree, we remove it just because a dead tree is a safety issue.”

According to Martin, the tree removal should be completed by the end of the business day on Thursday.

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