The debate over the state Department of Transportation’s plans to cut down most of the trees in the median of I-26 between Summerville and I-95 has clearly demonstrated the public’s view that the scenic interstate segment shouldn’t be spoiled.
That reaction probably also reflects public sentiment elsewhere in South Carolina.
So motorists should take heed of a remark by state Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, at Wednesday’s meeting of the State Infrastructure Bank in Columbia.
While discussing pending widening projects on interstate highways to be funded by the SIB, Sen. Leatherman, a member of the bank’s board, said that work should be done in the median where the ground has already been stabilized. Presumably, that would be easier and cheaper.
The DOT has made these similar arguments for its plans to clear-cut most of the I-26 median: It would be cheaper than an alternative plan. And it would more easily accommodate the widening of the highway to meet higher levels of traffic, particularly related to the growth of the port.
Do state residents really want to see South Carolina crisscrossed by multi-lane highways separated by a narrow, barren median or, more likely, a concrete barrier?
It might be cheaper, but it would make for some unrelentingly ugly, monotonous interstates.
South Carolinians pay for these highway improvements through gas taxes. They should make their views known on the importance of maintaining scenic interstates, particularly where they already exist, to their elected officials, as well as the Department of Transportation.
Former state Sen. Arthur Ravenel, R-Charleston, has cited a bill he shepherded through the Legislature in the 1980s that prohibits the DOT from clear-cutting the median.
The DOT contends that it can do so when safety demands it. Mr. Ravenel insists that an agency policy can’t supersede a state law.
We hope he’s right. It would be a shame if the State Infrastructure Bank followed the DOT’s animus on trees in the median.
It would make for a lot of unsightly motoring.