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LOCKPORT – The Town of Lockport recently planted 36 trees along South Transit Road, the beginning of what Supervisor Marc R. Smith said this week was a five-year beautification plan to line the road with trees.

The plan was hatched after the town decided not to install traffic medians down the center of the business corridor on South Transit, which is part of state Route 78.

The trees were planted between the sidewalk and the curb in the stretch immediately north of the intersection with Robinson Road.

Highway Superintendent David J. Miller said the saplings planted were red maple, common hackberry and northern red oak.

“They’re considered to be the hardiest trees,” he said. The price tag was slightly more than $100 a tree.

Miller said the selections and the placement were approved by the state Department of Transportation and the town’s engineering firm, Wendel.

Charles Morgante, regional director of operations for the DOT, said the department has rules on roadside trees. The trees aren’t supposed to grow to more than 4 inches in trunk diameter.

“We’d like them behind the sidewalk, but in this case they couldn’t do that,” Morgante said. “Everything that went in there, we had recommended before.”

A critic of the town’s plans, who phoned The Buffalo News but didn’t leave his name, claimed that the saplings were a waste of taxpayers’ money because they were sure to be ruined in the winter by snowplows pushing back the snow along the curbs.

Morgante said that’s wrong. He said if the trees are staked and have well-established roots, they should survive road salt and piled snow and ice.

“We’ve got trees all over Western New York in snow belts like Transit Road,” Morgante said. “Maybe one might get snapped off, but not a whole row of them.”

Miller said, “We purposely put in hardy street trees so they would survive the elements of the salt, and we’re not the only town in Western New York that has trees next to the road.”

The 2½-inch diameter saplings have been staked, and the town was installing watering bags to drip water down to their bases. They were purchased from Dore Landscape Associates of Pendleton.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com