Bus system to remove trees along University Avenue

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Black ribbons festoon trees along University Avenue, tied there by residents protesting their removal.

Bus Rapid Transit is a new bus system that will operate in a separate lane. The creation of this new lane will require the removal of trees, in order to preserve parking along University.

Black ribbons and tags are tied around 87 trees along University Avenue to protest their possible removal for the newly-approved bus Rapid Transit System. (Kara Johnson)
Black ribbons and tags are tied around 87 trees along University Avenue to protest their possible removal for the newly-approved bus Rapid Transit System. (Kara Johnson)

The ribbons were put up several months ago in a fight to save the 87 trees that could be removed. The trees also show tags listing the benefits of trees to the environment and society. A few of the tag examples include, “Trees combat the greenhouse effect,” “Trees bring groups of people together,” and, “Trees reduce air conditioning.”

The Provo City Municipal Council approved a $75 million city fund to install the Bus Rapid Transit system Sept. 9.

While the city plans to save the trees, its focus is on other priorities.

“Issues with the trees will be weighed against other issues and citizen requests, which are just as important as the trees,” said Mayor John Curtis.

Utah County is expected to double in size in the next 20 years, and the Bus Rapid Transit project accommodates the number of people who will use public transportation. While saving the trees is a concern, the city must take into account the concerns of all residents.

For some residents, that is not enough. Provo resident Carol Thompson is among many who tied black ribbons on the trees in July. She said Provo is known as a tree city, and many residents don’t want to see that change.

“We want to wake people up to what could happen on University Avenue,” Thompson said.

Thompson is concerned that the removal of the trees will limit the space available to pedestrians and bikers as well as take away the beauty of Provo.

“University Avenue is an area where there are a lot of people that use that area, and they need to be considered,” Thompson said.

The city council hopes the project will move traffic along and reduce the number of cars on the road.

Buses will run about every five minutes, which eliminates wait times. It will allow citizens greater access to downtown Provo while improving air quality.

The Bus Rapid Transit system will make it easier for residents to access downtown attractions such as the Provo Center temple, the Covey Center for the Arts and Velour.

Despite the positive effects the Bus Rapid Transit may have on Provo, many citizens are not convinced that the benefits are worth the cost.

“Trees enhance the quality of life and tie the community together,” Thompson said.

The city will try to keep as many trees as possible, but some will inevitably have to be removed, said Gary Winterton, a member of the Provo City Council.

State foresters have said many of the trees that would be removed are reaching the natural end of their life expectancy. The city plans to replace trees that are lost.

The final Bus Rapid Transit plan will be finalized in October of this year. Construction on the project will begin spring 2015.

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