Unexplained landscaping around local freeways put in by TxDOT have cost millions of dollars and there have been questions about the reason for various projects.
At Interstate 37 and Southeast Military, there are palms, plants and trees in many areas on the frontage road near the highway and in the median.
Even by an unscientific estimate there are obviously thousands of dollars’ worth of plants, mulch and irrigation.
At Interstate 10 and Loop 410, another huge landscaping project covers acres of land in high dollar plants.
One question that arises is why the state is spending so much money to beautify the highways?
A KSAT Defenders investigation into the landscaping areas uncovered six separate projects in San Antonio.
- $239,456.95 used for State Highway 16.
- $331,759.14 was contracted for IH 35 improvements.
- $440,483.00 for Interstate 10 work.
- $520,750.01 for Interstate 37 improvements.
- $662,704.00 for U.S. Highway 281 landscaping.
- $962,118.36 for Loop 410 improvements.
- Total for all six projects: $3,157,271.
Those contracts showed what kind of plants were called for, where they were to be planted and how deep.
They showed how irrigation was to be installed as well, but nothing about why the projects were undertaken.
Finally, TxDOT answered questions about the origin of the projects, which are part of the statewide Green Ribbon Landscape Program started by the legislature to help reduce air pollution.
Eighty percent is paid with federal transportation dollars and 20% by the state highway fund.
So the answer about some mystery landscaping involves plants being planted to fight pollution and paid for mostly by the federal government.
TxDOT's new approach to landscaping also included new plantings that more closely resemble an ecosystem restoration project rather than park-like plantings.
Native and naturalized trees, shrubs and ground covers are being used to limit the maintenance needs.
Other benefits are increased habitat, improved water quality and a more pleasant driving experience.