RAYMONDVILLE — After nearly 50 miles of anxious glances at the gas gauge when driving south through the wilderness from Sarita, the tall palm trees on both sides of I-69E/U.S. 77 at the Willacy County line whisper “almost home.”
There are hundreds of mature palms along the stretch of interstate, framing both sides of the highway as well as growing in the median between the lanes as the roadway passes the Frank Yturria Ranch.
The letter “T” is spray-painted on 273 of them.
The palms which have greeted southbound travelers for decades are going to come down, but those 273 trees will live to sway in the wind and drop thousands of fronds along other state roads after they are transplanted.
“They’re going to be transplanted away from that area into another section which is within our right-of-way,” TxDOT spokesman Octavio Saenz said yesterday. “It’s just a way of saving the trees and making sure that they still bring life somewhere.”
The palms, Saenz said, will be moved to the median of I-69E/U.S. 77 in Raymondville near where State Highway 186 crosses underneath.
Removing and transplanting the palms is part of a larger $22.7 million project that began this month.
From Business 77 in Raymondville to just under a mile from the Kenedy/Willacy county line, Foremost Paving Inc. crews are improving freeway main lanes, frontage roads, entrance/exit ramps and wildlife crossings.
The project also includes culverts, storm sewers and drainage structures, bridges, retaining walls and eventually new lighting.
While motorists coming south into the Valley will lose a decades-old welcoming landmark when the palms go, it really can’t be helped.
Engineers say the palms are in the way of construction, and there are safety concerns about trees growing so close to an interstate roadway.
WHERE — From Business 77 in Raymondville to 0.93 miles south of the Kenedy/Willacy county line
WHAT — Construction improvements consist of freeway main lanes, frontage roads, entrance/exit ramps, and wildlife crossings. It also includes culverts, storm sewers and drainage structures, bridges, retaining walls, and illumination
WHO — Contractor is Foremost Paving
WHEN — Work began Jan. 8
COST — Project amount is $22.7 Million