Famous palm and pine trees on the California highway.  99 to be eliminated

Famous palm and pine trees on the California highway. 99 to be eliminated

Famous palm and pine trees on the California highway.  99 to be eliminated

The beloved palm and pine trees, once considered the geographic center of California, will be removed next year for a highway widening project.

These iconic trees, a Canary Islands date palm to the south and a Deodar cedar masquerading as a pine to the north, have stood on the center divide of Highway 99 in Madera County for nearly a century, symbolizing the divide between the northern and southern California.

But in the fall of 2025, Caltrans will widen State Route 99 from 7th Avenue to 12th Avenue, adding one lane in each direction to create a six-lane highway. The project will also involve rehabilitating existing lanes and shoulders, adding an auxiliary lane on the northbound 12th Avenue exit ramp and installing a concrete median barrier over the island where the trees have been since the 1920s.

“They have to be moved,” said Larry Johnson, public information officer for Caltrans District 6. “It’s something no one wanted to do, but it’s a necessary step for security reasons.”

The project aims to alleviate congestion and improve road connectivity, addressing future traffic demands. Without improvements, traffic flow is expected to worsen significantly by 2046. The $126.86 million project is essential to accommodate the expected increase from 80,500 to 127,000 daily riders along the target stretch, Caltrans said.

To mitigate the loss of the landmark, Caltrans plans to plant 15 palm trees representing Southern California and 15 pine trees representing Northern California along the south side of the highway.

“It won’t be in the middle of the highway, but will represent the palm and pine area,” Johnson said. “Plus, we’re adding a special irrigation system that will help keep them healthy for years to come.”

It’s unclear whether the current trees (the original pine tree felled and replaced in 2005) will be part of the new facility, something that worries Michael Ballard, president of California’s Historic Highway 99 Association, which is launching a submission campaign of letters. to save the palm and pretend pine.

“We propose that the trees be relocated and saved if possible,” he wrote in a blog post on the organization’s site. “We are also proposing that signage be placed at the site to mark the historic site and bring it closer to public view. They could be moved to the shoulder or possibly to a local museum. “These trees, in one form or another, have marked the transition between Northern and Southern California since the 1920s and should not be lost to ‘progress.’”

Although it was later discovered that the true geographic center of California is actually near the North Fork, in the mountains of Madera County, the famous trees of the Central Valley remain a major draw.

Johnson assured: “The project does not start until next year. It’s not going to happen tomorrow. People can still drive by at 70 miles an hour and see them.”