Grooms sponsors resolution to halt I-26 tree cutting
State Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, said Tuesday that he is sponsoring a joint resolution to stop the planned removal of trees in the Interstate 26 median from Summerville to Interstate 95.
If approved, the measure would halt the state Department of Transportation from moving forward with its tree-cutting project until the General Assembly Joint Transportation Review Committee has studied the planned action and commented on it, Grooms said.
“I really want to see why they are doing it, and if there is an alternative,” he said.
He said the resolution may come to a vote in the Senate on Thursday. First, it must gain approval of the Senate Transportation Committee of which Grooms is chairman, he said.
After a Senate vote, it would go to the House for consideration.
DOT spokesman Pete Poore said the agency has received a letter from the Berkeley County Legislative Delegation concerning the I-26 safety project. DOT has offered to meet with the delegation members to answer any questions they may have, he said.
The $5 million DOT project aims to reduce fatalities and severe-injury crashes. It is part of a plan to widen the interstate to three lanes in each direction. Cable guardrail would be installed in the middle of the median after the trees are removed.
The DOT is in the process of preparing a contract for the I-26 project, which will require an environmental permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. The work, which could begin in the fall, will take about a year to complete unless it is delayed, officials said.
Grooms said he favored putting cable guardrail on both sides of the highway between the woods and the highway shoulder. The DOT said that option is too expensive and not as effective from a safety standpoint. It would double the project cost, DOT said.
Grooms said he is not saying that the trees can not be cut but he wants more of an explanation of the project before it proceeds. Highway Commissioner Jim Rozier of Moncks Corner has said he supported leaving the wetlands and hardwoods in the median, but removing pines. The interstate passes over Four Holes Swamp, he noted.
I-26 in the project area has an annual average daily traffic count of 32,433 vehicles. From 2007 through 2011, 1,934 crashes resulting in 44 fatalities and 709 injuries occurred in the stretch of interstate. Half of the crashes were run-off-the-road accidents, the DOT said.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at 937-5711