Discussions are continuing for a beautification project along I-5 in Tualatin

TUALATIN - A representative with the Oregon Department of Transportation estimates that planting of new trees along a section of Interstate 5 in Tualatin could begin sometime in November.

The planting would come almost one year after a land development company's contractor removed an ODOT fence and 'inadvertently' cut down 40 maple trees along the freeway on ODOT property.

Oregon Pacific Capitol Management Corp. is working with representatives from ODOT and the city of Tualatin to correct the mistake made by the development company's contractor last year. That mistake could ultimately cost the company as much as $350,000 to correct.

'The $350,000 estimate has really been just for discussion purposes,' said ODOT District 2A Manager Ron Kroop, who oversees the freeway from the Marcom Bridge to the Boone Bridge in south Wilsonville. He was referring to the rather high estimate being tossed around as a possible figure associated with replacing the trees.

The estimate includes the planting of maples with diameters larger than 1 or 2 inches plus costs associated with caring for those trees for at least three years.

Neither ODOT nor Oregon Pacific Capitol Management are sure what types of trees were actually on the property, which is located between I-5 and Lower Boones Ferry Road south of the Park and Ride. It's believed that most of the trees were volunteer or planted by previous residents of a mobile home park.

In the fall of 2005, Oregon Pacific Capitol Management owned the property along Lower Boones Ferry Road where the mobile home park was once located. The development company originally purchased the property with the intention of building a 60,000-square-foot retail-shopping complex called Bridgeport Commons.

The property has since been sold to Providence Medical Group, which has plans to build an 80,000-square-foot medical office complex.

But prior to the sale, Oregon Pacific hired a contractor to clear out bushes and put up a new fence on the property. According to Kroop, the contractor went 6 to 8 feet onto ODOT property and removed about 40 large trees that were approximately 8 to 10 inches in diameter.

Kroop said ODOT heard about the tree removal the next day but only after someone reported damage to one of ODOT's electrical junction boxes near the site.

The contractor was hired by Oregon Pacific to clear out the remnants of the mobile home park, to cut down blackberry bushes and to replace the existing fence on the property, said Julie Leuvrey, with Oregon Pacific and a principal with Bridgeport Commons LLC.

'We knew he was removing the fence and replacing it,' Leuvrey said. 'But we didn't realize he had cut down several trees.'

Upon hearing about the trees, Kroop contacted the Department of Justice and then the city of Tualatin.

Kroop noted that ODOT does not believe the tree removal was intentional on the part of the development company.

But the replanting is likely just the beginning of a beautification and enhancement program being pursued by the city of Tualatin.

Tualatin Operations Director Dan Boss is working with ODOT to bring better landscaping efforts to the city's I-5 corridor.

Instead of a sea of signs, Boss envisions trees that provide a softer look for the city, which right now greets motorists with a bevy of signs from an adult club to a gas station to shopping complexes.

'We're looking to paint the backdrop along I-5,' Boss noted about the project, which is still in the planning and discussion stages between the city and ODOT.

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