- Author: Phyllis Molnar
- Editor: Noni Todd
Caltrans And Roadside Plants
By Phyllis A Molnar UCCE Master Gardener
While driving the roadways in California, have you ever wondered who planted those roadside plants? Why did they choose that shrub or tree? I had the opportunity to have these, and other questions answered by Landscape Architect, Corby Kilmer, who works for Caltrans District 5. Ms. Kilmer is involved in designing highway landscape projects for District 5 which includes San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterrey, and Santa Barbara Counties. There is a total of 12 Caltrans Districts in California.
Ms. Kilmer confirmed that all landscape design projects strive to provide drivers and passengers a visually pleasing travel experience. All design projects begin with an assessment of the visual quality of the area, which may be near a railway system, a city center, a housing complex, farmland, desert, woodlands, or wetlands. Let us not forget the importance of protection and enhancement of existing native plant species, erosion control, sound mitigation; aesthetically pleasing structures such as walls, bridges, rest areas and vista points, while preventing any negative environmental impacts. Ms. Kilmer emphasized that CALTRANS focuses on landscape designs that help prevent or manage the spread of insect pests and disease while protecting native flora and fauna and their habitats. Native and drought tolerant plant species are preferred due to California's past, current, and most likely future drought conditions. The selected plants require only short-term watering to establish the plant's root system.
Final landscape designs include all structures, irrigation specs, mulching details and a plant species list that includes the size and quantity of plants and their intended location for the site. All design projects are included in the “Looking Ahead” project report listing which includes all upcoming CALTRANS construction, architectural and engineering contracts. CALTRANS does not have its own plant nursery. Therefore, landscaping contracts are awarded to the lowest cost bidder with excellent references and an existing relationship with a nursery that is certified with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to ensure plants are disease and pest free.
We want to thank Ms. Kilmer and the CALTRANS Landscape Division for their time and efforts in developing water-conscious landscapes for our California roadways. Take a moment to enjoy the view during your next road trip!
How to contact the UCCE Master Gardeners:
You can view workshops on Instagram live at slo mg or visit our You Tube channel at “San Luis Obispo County UC Master Gardeners.”
Our physical offices are now open!!!!!
Covid may still affect staffing levels, so it is best to call before heading to your local Helpline office:
San Luis Obispo: 805-781-5939 (Monday and Thursday 1:00 to 5:00)
Arroyo Grande: 805-473-7190 (Wednesday 10:00 to 12:00)
Templeton: 805-434-4105 (Wednesday 9:00 to 12:00)