In recent months the biggest local complaint against the state Department of Transportation has been over its plan to clear-cut trees from most of the median on I-26, between Summerville and I-95. Some local residents, however, are giving the DOT an earful over its failure to cut the weeds along the roads for which the agency is responsible.
For example, North Charleston Azalea Avenue resident Kathy Bell says the DOT ought to get moving on the tall weeds. She uses a path through them to reach the bus stop — stepping very carefully because of the very real possibility that snakes could be lurking in the depths of the roadside weeds.
Mowing the grass is the DOT’s responsibility. But the job was last done in May, and the roadside isn’t slated to be mowed again until August, according to our news story published Monday.
A DOT spokesman maintained it’s not a mowing issue, but merely the result of the volume of rain experienced locally. That’s a lame excuse, if we’ve ever heard one.
Homeowners adjust their mowing schedules to meet the need, and the DOT ought to be able to do the same. If it rains, the grass grows faster, and you simply have to use the mower more often.
In some local jurisdictions, if a homeowner allows the grass in his yard to grow too high, he can be fined.
Ms. Bell said the DOT’s failure to maintain the 200 yards along Azalea Road reflects badly on those homeowners who take pride in their yards.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey says it reflects badly on the city, as well.
That’s because many residents blame the city for the unsightly growth, not recognizing that the DOT actually is responsible for maintaining many urban and suburban roads, and trimming vegetation alongside.
North Charleston was sufficiently unhappy with the DOT’s lax landscaping along a portion of I-526 that it took over the job and, in doing so, agreed to DOT reimbursements that Mayor Summey described as “ludicrous.”
It’s ironic that the DOT has often been criticized for cutting vegetation too enthusiastically along rural highways.
But there’s a reasonable distinction to be made between urban and rural roadways.
With the nation’s fourth largest state-maintained highway system, there’s plenty of both under the DOT’s jurisdiction. One policy doesn’t necessarily fit all.
While criticism about the gaps in the DOT’s mowing schedule is warranted, it’s also true that the agency is badly underfunded.
And that’s the fault of the state Legislature, which has been unwilling for the last 26 years to raise the gas tax on which the DOT depends, despite the obvious need.
That mitigating factor is probably lost on the residents who just want the DOT to do its job, and keep the weeds down along the roads where they live.
If that means stepping up the schedule because it’s been a rainy summer, the DOT ought to have the flexibility, and good sense, to respond accordingly.
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