DOT reaffirms commitment to keep roads safe following fallen tree incident on Route 15 that injured 2 in Orange

The driver of one car and the passenger in the other both went to the hospital with minor injuries but are expected to be OK.

Marissa Alter and Emily Knapton

Jun 21, 2024, 9:38 PM

Updated 23 days ago


Some scary moments along Route 15 during the morning commute Thursday when a tree fell across all northbound lanes in Orange and hit two cars. It happened near the Milford line before exit 56 around 9:23 a.m.
The Milford Fire Department responded to the crash. The driver of one car and the passenger in the other both went to the hospital with minor injuries but are expected to be OK.
“Certainly, this could’ve had a more serious outcome,” said Assistant Fire Chief Stephen Rabel. “This particular tree had split and had two leaders, and one of the leaders was rotted which caused it to fall. The state DOT has been cutting trees back to help prevent this.” CTDOT communications director Josh Morgan said the incident reaffirms the department’s commitment to making the roads safe through the vegetation management guidelines, which removes the dead and dying trees from along state highways.
Morgan told News 12 DOT works with an arborist to determine which trees need to go, a number that's increased in recent years after bad storms in 2017 and 2018. “They were shutting down the roads basically every other week with debris and trees falling down, so we were able to receive some additional money which is allowing us to take these trees down,” he explained.
Morgan said part of the problem is the state has been overrun with invasive species. “Emerald ash bore has decimated pretty much every ash tree in Connecticut. Spongy moths, some of these other species, are just really wreaking havoc. It makes these trees incredibly dangerous,” Morgan stated.
“The DOT told one of our crews that this time of year, when it's really hot and dry, the insects have a tendency to go more inside to try and find cool and moisture, so they're more active which could've led to the fact that the tree branch that was rotted fell,” said Rabel. Morgan said the tree-trimming program includes removing healthy trees if the root structure is compromised and the soil can't withstand the tree's weight. The DOT has also created a safety zone, clearing any vegetation that’s within 30 feet of the shoulder. According to Morgan, the state has seen a dramatic reduction in deaths from trees along state roads since crews started doing additional vegetation management in 2018.
“It was about an average of 20 to 22 people a year were killed by crashing into trees on Connecticut roads. That has gone down to about 10 to 14 people a year,” Morgan said. “The program is working, and it’s just part of our larger strategy to make sure that people can get to their destination safely.”

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