Capitol parking lot to affect trees _lowres

Advocate Photo by MARSHA SHULER -- One of the trees targeted for removal as green spaces around the State Capitol are paved to put up a parking lot.

The ongoing State Capitol security project calls for removal of 80-year-old magnolia trees and an oak to put up a parking lot.

New parking and changes in traffic flow related to the $4.37 million project will prompt the reconfiguration of current green spaces around the Capitol.

“Of the current trees, project managers have taken great care to find locations where they can be relocated,” said Meghan Parrish, communications director for the state Division of Administration.

But four trees have been identified “as unlikely to survive relocation,” Parrish said. Three magnolias are behind the Capitol. An oak tree is nearest the roundabout on the east end of Arsenal Park.

The magnolias, in particular, “are near the end of their life span. They are over 80 years old and wouldn’t be able to make the move,” Parrish said.

“But there will be a lot more to replace them,” she said.

Once complete, Capitol Park will have 25 new magnolia, cypress and oak trees. Plans call for another six magnolias, 10 cypress trees and various other shrubs to be relocated as the green space behind the State Capitol is paved to create additional parking, Parrish said.

In addition, a large live oak tree will be relocated from one side of Third Street to the other, she said.

The project, which began in mid-July, will take part of the parking lot in front of the Capitol building to create a pedestrian plaza between the foot of the steps and the sunken formal garden. During legislative sessions, the pedestrian plaza will go away and become assigned, nonpublic parking.

Four security posts will be installed at different points around the Capitol perimeter, and parking will be controlled around the building for much of the year. Vehicles will no longer be able to freely use the driveway under the portico at the rear of the Capitol.

Eventually, the number of parking spaces will increase slightly, but vehicles will be routed further away from the building.

Traffic patterns around the Capitol also will change. The roadway on either side of the Arsenal grounds will go from one way to two-way traffic.

On one side, vehicles will be funneled directly to Third Street along the backside of the Capitol

On the other side, Fifth Street will become one-way from Spanish Town Road toward the Arsenal with new parking alignments. From the Arsenal toward Spanish Town, traffic will be diverted through what is called the “garden lot” — a parking area that butts up against the Capitol park where former Gov. Huey Long is buried. Its parking too will be redesigned.

The upgrade is expected to be completed by March 22, a few weeks before the April 13 start of the 2015 legislative session.

The security improvements have been discussed for years but sufficient funding recently became available.