Clock Ticking on ‘Iconic’ US 77 Palm Trees

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RAYMONDVILLE – Time is running out on a beloved collection of palm trees here in the Rio Grande Valley. The palm trees along US-77 stand in the way of a Texas Department of Transportation improvement project.

It’s not uncommon to see people stop for pictures in the area. TxDOT plans to relocate these trees to make room for four more lanes. They’re more than leaves and roots to the people of the Rio Grande Valley.

“It means home,” said Mayra Zaragoza, lifelong Valley resident.

Whether heading out or returning home, these palm trees greet Valley travelers on US-77.

Plans are in the works to relocate the trees to make room for a TxDOT improvement project. Zaragoza says they’re uprooting more than just vegetation.

“They’re taking away like a little piece of our home,” she said.

US-77 became I-69E in 2013. In January, TxDOT started bringing US-77 up to interstate standards.

They’re adding freeway main lanes, frontage roads, entrance and exit ramps and wildlife crossings, among other things.

“Because you add the main lanes, you need more land, you need more area,” said TxDOT Information Officer Octavio Saenz.

In two to three weeks, TxDOT plans to start transplanting to make room for more lanes. Some of the trees will move into the right of way along US-77; others will go just south of 186.

“We do have a great record of taking care of our palm trees because let’s be honest, the palm tree is iconic,” said Saenz.

TxDOT expects the transplant process to take four to six weeks to complete.

“I know they’re going to be redistributed and replanted in other parts of the valley," said Zaragoza. "But whenever you leave home and then come back that little piece is always there to tell like okay I’m almost there."

Zaragoza is holding out hope the trees can stay where they are.

This project is running from Raymondville to just south of the Willacy-Kenedy county line. Officials expect the entire project to be completed by September 2019.

If you would like to keep track of the project you can do so by visiting the project tracker on TxDOT's website.

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