When the S.C. Department of Transportation announced plans to remove trees from 30 miles of I-26’s wooded median, Jim Rozier got an earful.
As their highway commissioner, constituents wanted him to know they do not like the plan. They hate it. They like the trees, and they don’t think cutting them down is a good solution for highway safety.
Mr. Rozier’s efforts to change DOT’s plan were ineffective.
But citizens will have another chance to make their voices heard on the issue — something letter writer Dave Engle espouses.
“Isn’t it possible that the creative ideas discussed at a hearing could lead to a better plan, one that would enhance safety without unduly sacrificing this area’s natural beauty?”
Fortunately, before the chopping can begin, DOT must win support from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. And it must adhere to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. Doing so requires a public hearing.
Plans for the hearing haven’t been firmed up yet. But when they are announced, concerned people should mark their calendars and show up.
The trees are more than a pretty show of nature along an otherwise monotonous highway. Trees benefit the environment as well.
Dozens of readers have written us to protest the DOT plan. Some suggest the $5 million allocated for the work could be used to police the stretch of interstate better. One man told our reporter the money could be used to finish a long-awaited transportation hub in North Charleston.
The DOT plan calls for cable barriers to be installed in the bald median. It is designed to give motorists more time to recover if they leave the road, while presenting a flexible barrier if they don’t.
We have recommended leaving the trees where possible and using guardrails along the shoulders of the highway instead. Letter writers have offered their own alternatives to removing the trees.
Of course, there is no assurance that people’s voices will be heeded. You really have to wonder why the DOT didn’t take the public’s temperature at the outset of the planning process. Sometimes it seems that the DOT holds hearings only to meet a legal requirement.
But there’s only one way to find out: When the public hearing to discuss DOT’s tree-clearing plan is scheduled, speak up. The trees aren’t gone yet.