Arizona DOT Replants Giant, Aged Saguaros on Scottsdale Highway Project
SCOTTSDALE, AZ To make room to widen the Pima Freeway (Loop 101) with added lanes in Scottsdale, Arizona, construction crews had to remove hundreds of large saguaros, other cactuses and trees, but stored them temporarily in nurseries near the freeway.
In all, the Arizona Department of Transportation' $74 million project to improve an 11-mile stretch of Loop 101 salvaged more than a thousand plants in all for later replanting.
Now, ADOT said, about 400 saguaros are back as part of the desert-based landscaping next to the freeway.
"Many of the tall saguaros have been around longer than Arizona has been a state," the agency said. Arizona gained statehood in 1912 or 104 years ago, but the largest saguaros are thought to be 200 years old. One ADOT official said many of the ones crews are moving are more than 100 years old.
It's not easy work, according to an ADOT video report (below), which said the average weight of a saguaro is 3,000 pounds to 5,000 pounds. Besides avoiding their cactus spikes and flowers, crews also took care to note which directions the plants originally faced so they could be replanted the same way - to protect areas on the saguaros that had grown with little or no exposure to the sun.
ADOT said it worked closely with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the city of Scottsdale on the plans for salvaging, storing and transplanting the cactuses and other plants, including thorny ocotillos and ironwood trees.
"This restoration work is challenging but also very rewarding because many of the saguaros are more than a hundred years old and it's great to have them in place as an iconic symbol of Arizona," said ADOT Landscape Construction Supervisor Richard Adamson.
The plant-restoration work next to Loop 101 ramped up this summer, with crews using heavy equipment to transport individual plants from each of the nurseries to a location mapped out for their replanting. In addition to the plants that were saved over the last two years, crews are adding about 10,000 new shrubs, trees and cactuses along the route.
"We've learned a lot over the years about including plant restoration in our freeway-improvement projects," said Madhu Reddy, District Engineer for ADOT's central construction district in Phoenix, Arizona. "Local communities support these efforts and we receive compliments from local residents and valley visitors who like what they're seeing."