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Noteworthy Practices Roadside Tree and Utility Pole Management

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This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The U.S. Government assumes no liability for the use of the information contained in this document. The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers' names appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.

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Technical Documentation Page

1. Report No.


2. Government Accession No.

3. Recipient's Catalog No.

4. Title and Subtitle

Noteworthy Practices: Roadside Tree and Utility Pole Management

5. Report Date

September 2016

6. Performing Organization Code

7. Authors

Joseph G. Jones, P.E.

8. Performing Organization Report No.

9. Performing Organization Name and Address

111251 Roger Bacon Drive
Reston, VA 20190

10. Work Unit No.

11. Contract or Grant No.


12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address

Federal Highway Administration Office of Safety
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590

13. Type of Report and Period Covered

Noteworthy Practices Guide

July 2015 to September il 2016

14. Sponsoring Agency Code


15. Supplementary Notes:

Joseph Cheung (joseph.cheung@dot.gov), Office of Safety (http://safety.fhwa.dot. gov/), served as the Technical Manager for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The following FHWA staff members contributed as technical working group members, reviewers and/or provided input or feedback to the project at various stages: Frank Julian, Richard Albin, and Nicholas Artimovich. Additionally, many individual safety partners representing States and public private partnerships made significant contributions to this project: special thanks to Timothy Barnett (Alabama DOT); Jennene Ring, Ahmer Nizam, and John Milton (Washington State DOT); Jason Herschock (Pennsylvania DOT); Brian Hurst, and Brandon Darks (Tennessee DOT); Phil Tenhulzen (Nebraska DOR); Tracie Leix, Steve Shaughnessy, and Lynette Firman (Michigan DOT); Brian Hovanec, Mark Thomas, and Heath Patterson (Mississippi DOT); James Marino (Arizona DOT); Stephen Tartre (Main Turnpike Authority); and Charles Muller (Wyoming DOT).

16. Abstract

Crashes involving roadside trees and utility poles are the most prevalent among fatal, run-off-road, fixed object crashes. Nevertheless, these two obstacles remain among the least-treated on the roadside. As such, comprehensive research is both needed and frequently proposed in this area. This report is intended to provide agencies with examples of successful—immediately deployable— tree and pole practices until such time as this research can be performed. These practices range from complex, multi-million dollar contract solutions to in-house efforts that can be accomplished with minimal resources, and have been drawn from every region of the United States as well as from previous research.

17. Key Words

Fixed object, Roadside, Roadway Departure, Severity, Tree,
Utility pole

18. Distribution Statement

No restrictions.

19. Security Classif. (of this report)


20. Security Classif. (of this page)


21. No. of Pages:


22. Price


Form DOT F 1700.7 (8-72) Reproduction of completed pages authorized

Table of Contents


1.1 Purpose
1.2 Methodology
1.3 Organization


2.1 . Keep the Vehicle on the Roadway

2.1.1 Alabama: Applying Specific Countermeasures Corresponding to Individual Crash Types
2.1.2 Washington: Targeting Locations through Network Analysis
2.1.3 Pennsylvania: Increasing Safety in Culturally Sensitive Areas
2.1.4 Tennessee: Managing Roadsides with Environmental Constraints

2.2 Allow the Vehicle to Regain the Roadway

2.2.1 Nebraska: Re-establishing Clear Zones during Resurfacing, Restoration, and Rehabilitation (3R) as well as Resurfacing, Restoration, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (4R)
2.2.2 Michigan: Clearing through Informed Consent
2.2.3 Mississippi and Arizona: Establishing and Maintaining Clear Zones

2.3 Reduce the Severity of Crashes

2.3.1 New Jersey: Using Poles That Absorb Crash Energy

2.4 Roadside Tree Management Practices for Reasons Other than Safety

2.4.1 Alabama: Preventing Weather-related Tree Hazards
2.4.2 Maine Turnpike Authority: Increasing Natural Snow-melt
2.4.3 Wyoming: Removing Dead or Diseased Trees To Mitigate Fall Hazards



4.1 Lateral Offset
4.2 Visibility
4.3 Weather
4.4 Maintenance
4.5 Worker Safety



6.1 Trees
6.2 Utility Pole

List of Figures

Figure 1. Infographic. Relationship of roadside tree and utility pole crashes to all fatal crashes

Figure 2. Photo. Utility poles and trees in close proximity to the roadway

Figure 3. Map. Distribution of states with noteworthy roadside tree and utility pole management practices

Figure 4. Photo. Sycamore Allée near Halifax, PA

Figure 5. Photo. Yellow prismatic obstacle delineation around a roadside pole in Tennessee

Figure 6. Photo. Composite utility pole undergoing strength testing

Figure 7. Photo. Before and after tree clearing along the Maine Turnpike

List of Tables

Table 1. NDOR Fixed Object Clearance Widths

Table 2. Comparison of composite pole to wooden pole

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Page last modified on May 4, 2021
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