Tacoma residents push WSDOT to replant trees along I-5

TACOMA, Wash. -- A busy highway like I-5 can come with plenty of noise, wind and pollution.

That’s why a group in Tacoma is now fighting for WSDOT to add more trees along the highway to lower those impacts after dozens of trees were removed during a highway construction project.

Jennie Reed Elementary School’s playground sits right next to I-5, but noises from children at recess can be muffled by loud big rigs.

“Why are they not replanting buffers that are impacting schools?” asked Ricky Clousing, a resident of Tacoma’s South End.

Clousing says Tacoma’s South End is an area that has seen plenty of trees removed from WSDOT’s $1.4 Billion HOV and carpool expansion project along I-5 that started in 2001.

“There are portions around the project footprint in the last 18 years where trees were removed and there are no plans to replant them,” said Clousing.

Satellite images from before the project started show several different areas where trees that once served as a buffer from the highway were removed for construction.

Jennie Reed Elementary School’s principal Abby Sloan says it’s a problem she’s been trying to fix as well.

“It was solidified the plan from WSDOT that those trees were not going to be planted in the areas that were most sensitive and important to us because they were near kids. That’s when we started asking why," Sloan said.

Back in 2017 the school and the city of Tacoma replanted 75 trees inside the barrier wall but they want WSDOT to replant trees that were removed on the other side of the wall as well.

WSDOT released a statement saying they’re still working on the landscaping plan. It reads, in part:

“The landscaping plan for the Southbound HOV project is currently being developed and will cover the remaining areas along I-5 from M Street to the Puyallup River, and WSDOT right-of-way around Jennie Reed Elementary School.”