Tall weeds along I-26, I-526 called embarrassment
MOUNT PLEASANT — Bruce Pietkiewicz saw the 6-foot-tall weeds along Interstate 526, and he was embarrassed.
He couldn’t believe the scraggly appearance of the roadside when friends visited for the PGA Championship last week.
“I don’t know what the answer is, but it doesn’t represent our community very well,” he said. “The weeds have gotten so tall.”
The I-526 roadside weeds are tall, thin and have fern-like leaves. They are located between Long Point Road and U.S. Highway 17.
Pietkiewicz, a Brickyard Plantation resident, said if his grass got that tall, he would receive a summons from the homeowners association.
He said the weed situation has existed for months.
“The reason the grass got so high is we were resurfacing I-526 in that area. We wanted all of it to be cut before the PGA tournament,” said James Law, state Department of Transportation spokesman. “It should be cut this week. I know it’s gotten pretty high.”
John McCurdy, who manages the mowing contract for the DOT, said Wednesday that the area should be mowed by the end of the week.
He said the problem happened because that stretch of interstate is still under contract for the resurfacing work, even though it appears finished. The final sign-off on the work is expected on Thursday, he said. McCurdy said he got permission from the road resurfacing contractor to mow before then.
“That area has not been touched all year,” he said.
The contract for resurfacing had no line item for mowing, he said.
The DOT contracts with Dixie Lawn Service of North Carolina for roadside mowing in Charleston County, he said.
Before the resurfacing, I-526 between Long Point Road and Chuck Dawley Boulevard was a pockmarked, rutted road. The $6.8 million makeover improved a section of I-526 that is heavily traveled by commuters and truckers leaving the State Ports Authority Wando terminal.
Law said the Transportation Department contractor for I-526 mowing could not be here before the golf tournament to cut the grass.
DOT typically hires a contractor to mow roadsides three times per year in May, July and September. Roadside grass was cut four times annually before budget cuts, he said.
The weed problem is not unique to I-526.
On Interstate-26 westbound, roadside weeds and cactus were growing near exit 213 on Wednesday.
Roadside weeds up to 3 feet tall were visible just before the Ashley Phosphate Road exit. In Ladson, a sign for I-26 east on College Park Road was partially obscured by bushes. A mowing crew was working on I-26 east at the Charleston city limits.
The median and shoulders of I-526 looked in need of mowing from U.S. 17 to the James B. Edwards Bridge on Wednesday. Near Savannah Highway, crews on tractors were cutting the tall grass on the interstate. A sign on the eastbound lanes said the mowing would be happening in Charleston for three miles.
The state’s 2013 road maintenance program assigns a grade of “F” for the current level of service for roadside upkeep. “The overall appearance is not aesthetically pleasing,” it says.
In the past fiscal year, the level of service for roadsides has declined while the maintenance division has focused more attention on signs. The fiscal year begins July1.
“The level of service is expected to decline as more maintenance is deferred due to unavailable funds for the maintenance budget,” the plan states.
The DOT area maintenance accomplishment plan for the next 12 months lists $8.9 million for roadsides and $3.8 million for shoulders and ditches.