ODOT has removed patches of trees along Greater Cincinnati highways. Here's why


Readers noticed a large patch of tree clearings along southbound Interstate 71 between the Kenwood Road and Stewart Road exits and asked The Enquirer what happened.

Is the interstate expanding? Is a new building going in?

At least part of the clearings are due to a statewide Ohio Department of Transportation project on interstates and “interstate look-alikes,” ODOT spokesperson Kathleen Fuller said. Thanks to this initiative, drivers will notice an uptick in cleared paths and tree debris along highways in eight metropolitan areas, including Cincinnati.

The Enquirer spoke to Fuller about what readers should know about the project, including why it’s happening and when it will end in Ohio.

What is the ODOT tree removal project?

The Ohio Department of Transportation’s Columbus office hired contractors to control vegetation overgrowth along Ohio interstates and “interstate look-alikes,” which are multi-lane divided highways. Ronald Reagan Cross County Highway, comprised mostly of Ohio 126, is an example of an “interstate look-alike.”

Trees and debris are cleared from the median of I-275 near the 5 Mile Road exit in Anderson Township, Ohio, as seen on Wednesday, July 10, 2024.Trees and debris are cleared from the median of I-275 near the 5 Mile Road exit in Anderson Township, Ohio, as seen on Wednesday, July 10, 2024.

Trees and debris are cleared from the median of I-275 near the 5 Mile Road exit in Anderson Township, Ohio, as seen on Wednesday, July 10, 2024.

The clearing is limited to medians, ramp interchanges − the sections of land between ramps and the interstate − and roughly 30 feet from the pavement line, which includes road shoulders.

Why is the project happening?

The project is taking place for a number of reasons:

  • Control invasive species: This is the primary reason for the project, Fuller said. ODOT is cutting back honeysuckle and Bradford pear trees, two pervasive invasive species. “We’re trying to keep those invasive species from becoming too out of control and spreading all up and down the right-of-way,” Fuller said.

  • Reduce potential obstructions for drivers: ODOT is cutting down trees that drivers may hit if they were to depart from the highway and onto medians or sides of the road. Clearing tree canopy also minimizes the risk of branches falling onto the highway.

  • Improve snow and ice operations: Eliminating overhanging tree branches will allow more sun exposure to roads, Fuller said, which will help thaw snow and ice on roads in the winter.

  • Improve driver visibility: Large vegetation can block drivers’ ability to see potential hazards − like traffic on ramps or deer hiding in the brush.

  • Maintain proper drainage: Removing vegetation enables ODOT to easily see areas that may cause potential drainage issues, like ditches, and address them.

Where is the project occurring?

The project is occurring across eight Ohio metropolitan areas, including:

  • Dayton

  • Cincinnati

  • Toledo

  • Columbus

  • Cleveland

  • Youngstown

  • Akron

  • Canton

The project has been completed in Cincinnati, but debris currently remains. In Cincinnati, the project occurred on interstates 71, 74 and 275. Drivers will see tree branches and other leftovers along these interstates. Fuller said she is not aware of the project having taken place on any “interstate look-alikes” in Cincinnati.

In Columbus, ODOT hired contractors removed honeysucke bushes and other junk trees from highways over the course of March to June 2024.In Columbus, ODOT hired contractors removed honeysucke bushes and other junk trees from highways over the course of March to June 2024.

In Columbus, ODOT hired contractors removed honeysucke bushes and other junk trees from highways over the course of March to June 2024.

When will the project be finished?

Crews began work in March and finished in Cincinnati as of July 9, Fuller said.

Crews will continue to clear in the other metropolitan areas now that they are finished in Hamilton County. They likely have two years to complete the project across Ohio, said Fuller.

Crews may return to Cincinnati in the future to address the debris that remains on the interstates, Fuller added.

Curious as to why there's a bunch of debris along Cincinnati interstates? These twigs on I-71 North are leftover from an Ohio Department of Transportation clearing project.Curious as to why there's a bunch of debris along Cincinnati interstates? These twigs on I-71 North are leftover from an Ohio Department of Transportation clearing project.

Curious as to why there’s a bunch of debris along Cincinnati interstates? These twigs on I-71 North are leftover from an Ohio Department of Transportation clearing project.

Will the project impact traffic?

ODOT has rolled out temporary single-lane closures due to the project. It has, otherwise, had minimal impact on traffic across the state.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Ohio Department of Transportation conducting tree removal project



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