TAMPA, Florida -- You can't miss them driving in or out of the Bay Area.

Hundreds of palm trees are being planted at the sides of the roads in dense lines.

The price tag? Hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So, in a tight economy, why is the state doing this now?

Two reasons. One: they're obligated to under state law. Two: Gov. Rick Scott told them to.

The trees are being planted in dense clusters. Projects include the west side of the Howard Frankland Bridge. Another group sits at W Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and I-4.Thelargest project, not yet complete, isat I-4 and I-75. (See below for more specifics on these projects.)

Ronnie Murray,a local resident who drives past the trees almost every day, likes what he sees.

"It makes the area look more presentable. Better. More Floridian," he said.

FDOT officials hope that's exactly what visitors think.

The palm trees are a bargain, say state officials, grown in Florida and purchased at a discount. They also require little or no maintenance to flourish.

FDOT is handling the mass plantings at the direction of Governor Rick Scott, who believes the trees will impress tourists, and perhaps businesses considering a move here.

"Get new businesses, more tourism. It helps all of us create jobs." said Kris Carson, an FDOT spokesperson.

Critics say what would impress them is if the money was instead spent on real ongoing construction projects, or perhaps help fundprograms and services that have been cut under the governor's budget.

Julie Hay, who works nearby, wasshocked by the number oftrees, and the timing.

"It's a little surprising considering the economy, but maybe it'll bring in more tourists," she said.

But others who live and work nearby call it a waste of money.

"It's not something that makes me happy that I'm paying for, I guess," said local worker Justin Bowen.

It's not an option, according toFDOT.

Officials say they're obligated under state law to spend at least 1.5% of their road projects budget on landscaping.

They're spending the same amount as they have in years past, but concentrating it in larger, more visible projects.

"Instead of spreading little bushes here and there, little trees here and there, we're grouping them together in larger clusters," said Carson. "We're creating bold landscaping which looks really pretty."

This phase of the bold landscaping initiative is expected to be wrapped up in the next few weeks, but the project is far from over.

The governor's directive to landscape in small clusters of tall trees is expected to be in place for the next few years.

More specifics about projects listed above:

I-275 (Howard Frankland Bridge)

- $269,995.62

- 58 Washington Palm Trees

- 7 Sylvester Date Palm Trees


- $365,324.26

- 151 Washington Palms

- 129 Cabbage Palms

- 20 Sylvester Date Palms

I-4 and I-75

- $1,231,673

- 443 Sabal Palms

- 696 Washington Palms

- 78 Sylvester Date Palms

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