A portion of East Fifth Street will be closed this weekend so work crews can remove 15 old cottonwood trees between Saliman Road and Edmonds Drive.
The tree removal is related to the Carson City Freeway project because utility lines that run below the trees need to be removed and relocated to make way for the new highway, according to officials from Carson City and the Nevada Department of Transportation.
Work is set to begin on Phase 2 of the freeway this summer. City water, sewage and Southwest Gas Corp. lines snaking through this area supply utilities to the downtown and the west side, said development services director Andy Burnham.
Burnham emphasized that many of the cottonwoods slated for removal already are decayed. He also said the rotted trees pose a potential danger because large pieces of the trees have fallen into the street.
Cottonwoods are better suited for areas with a less arid climate, said Molly Sinnott, a local arborist and urban forestry consultant to the city.
The cottonwoods also are considered hazardous when compared with other types of trees. When a cottonwood rots, large pieces fall and can strike anything or anyone below, Sinnott said.
"The trees are stately and picturesque, but there are holes in them the size of cars," she said. "Luckily the branches haven't come down on cars or animals."
Sinnott isn't sure how old the trees are because many are badly rotted to the center, making it impossible to count the number of rings inside the trunk.
Pictures of the area from the state archives indicate some of the trees are approximately 100 years old now, though some trees shown were larger and others smaller, said Bob Nylan, curator of history for the Nevada State Museum.
"They were just big old trees," said lifelong Carson resident Sam Lompa, who grew up around the cottonwoods. "They never did belong to me, but it used to be nice to drive through them in the summertime."
New trees will be planted in the area as part of the freeway's landscaping project. The freeway is scheduled to open in 2010, though the first part of it is slated to be completed early next year.
This section of East Fifth Street will be closed from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Drivers are asked to take one of these alternate routes: Saliman Road to Highway 50 or Fairview Drive to Edmonds Drive, said Scott Magruder, public information officer for NDOT.
Drivers still will be able to reach the Nevada State Prison and businesses on the other side of the tree-removal area, Magruder said.
The street will reopen starting Monday, with travel delays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The work is expected to continue there through Wednesday, and workers will return later to dig up the stumps, he said.
Up to 8,000 vehicles travel that stretch of East Fifth Street on weekdays, Magruder said.
Trees are often left alone to rot when circumstances allow, Sinnott said. If the trees weren't a potential hazard to drivers - or in the way of the utility lines - they could have remained standing.
n Contact reporter Terri Harber at firstname.lastname@example.org or 882-2111, ext. 215.