Trees planted by Canberra's first afforestation officer could live on through cuttings after they are cut down for the second stage of light rail, a parliamentary inquiry has heard.
Almost 30 cedars planted by Charles Weston on the Commonwealth Avenue median will be removed to make way for the extension of the light rail network to Woden.
The trees are almost a century old, and former National Capital Development Commission landscape architecture director Dr John Gray said they should be retained, if possible.
"They're an important part of our heritage. I think our landscape is too precious to be chopping away at it the way it's been done in Northbourne Avenue," Dr Gray said.
Deputy chair of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories Gai Brodtmann questioned Public Transport Association of Canberra chairman Damien Haas and committee members Ryan Hemsley and David Flannery over the significance of the trees.
"It is a big concern for me particularly that connection to the very early days of Canberra," Ms Brodtmann said.
Mr Haas said the age and expected lifespan of the trees should be considered.
In 2013, the cedars were estimated to have between five and 40 years left.
"We would think that if you are able to now have a light rail plan that crossed Commonwealth Avenue bridge and either went where the trees are now or diverted roughly consistent with the original route as proposed by the ACT government but without harming the trees, [that] could be a good alternative," Mr Haas said.
However he said while the trees were not likely to be there in 50 years, the light rail network would be.
"Do we build along Commonwealth Avenue and divert because of some trees now and revisit it when those trees die? I don’t know. That’s a decision I guess needs to be taken by planners and by this inquiry and by this government and the NCA together," Mr Haas said.
He described Walter Burley Griffin, Marion Mahoney Griffin and Charles Weston as "pragmatic people" who were building a "functional city" for the people who worked and lived in the nation’s capital.
"I don’t want to speak for Charles Weston but I think that if he thought that planting some trees along Commonwealth Avenue would impact upon the mass transit system that would serve the very function of the city it was built to serve I don’t think he would be, you know, he would be concerned that some trees would be removed," Mr Haas said.
He suggested cuttings could be taken of the trees and replanted.
Mr Flannery said as an alternative, the tram could turn left immediately after it came off Commonwealth Bridge, heading towards the Treasury building and King Edward Terrace.
"I think there's an opportunity to divert away from all the trees by going up Langton Crescent," Mr Flannery said.
More hearings are expected in future.