The state Department of Transportation’s plans to clear-cut the I-26 median between Summerville and I-95 have drawn the ire of motorists, environmentalists and legislators.
Indeed, local legislators, in response to their constituents, are demanding that DOT gain the approval of the Berekeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Government before proceeding with the project. And a proviso to that effect was included in the state budget approved last week. It would deny funding for the project without a design endorsement from the BCD Council, which represents all local jurisdictions in the tri-county area.
At present, about 15 percent of the DOT plan already would pass public muster. That’s because the DOT currently doesn’t plan on cutting any trees on about 4.5 to 5 miles of the median, an agency spokesman tells us.
The reason? Those areas already have guardrails in place.
If that doesn’t suggest a better approach to this scenic highway, then agency officials aren’t paying attention.
The BCD Council should view the problem as 15 percent solved, and encourage the DOT to install guardrails alongside all the trees in the median.
Of course, the agency isn’t exactly famous for acknowledging the public’s enjoyment of roadside trees. Or quick on the uptake when it comes to dealing with irate South Carolinians on road disputes.
In a 1957 essay on historical streets and alleys in Charleston, author Drayton Mayrant cited a letter from a Judge Johnson stating how early paving improvements he ordered for French Alley (parallel to Maiden Lane in Ansonborough) were required to spare the orange trees alongside the street.
“Would that Judge Johnson were still with us — and were a member of the State Highway Commission!” Miss Mayrant wrote.
Or even now.
It’s about time for the DOT to turn over a new leaf.