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The glorious sight of the Capitol dome from the upper reaches of North Capitol Street has gotten somewhat less obstructed as of late, thanks to the more than mile-and-a-half of dying trees now rotting in the median.
“It’s a pretty appalling sight,” says Joseph Martin, a local advisory neighborhood commissioner. Martin was excited to see the dogwoods and magnolias planted between Michigan Avenue and Allison Street in March as part of North Capitol Street’s recent rehabilitation but has watched the lush greenery wilt without water in the crushing summer heat. “Obviously a fortune went into putting the trees in,” he says.
Mike Larson of the Petworth Garden Club says that he and other local green thumbs are usually more than to happy to help water and care for trees located in public areas. But he says tending to North Capitol’s median is above and beyond the neighborhood’s duty. “Public safety-wise, it’s darn crazy to expect residents to stand in the middle of the busy road,” he says.
Erik Linden, spokesperson for the D.C. Department of Transportation, says that the 120 trees were planted with public safety in mind—-other metropolitan areas have found that foliage reduces traffic accidents. However, Linden says, “in the city environment, the heat and exhaust of the median strip is too much.”
But Linden says Martin and others worried about government waste shouldn’t be concerned about the cost of replacing the dead trees—-under the city’s contracts with nurseries, trees, in essence, come with warranties. “If the tree doesn’t make it in the first year, we get another tree in return,” Linden says. Labor costs are included, and the trees don’t even have to be planted in the same place. “This is an example of where we would plant elsewhere,” he says.