Here's a state Department of Transportation news flash: Removing trees along the roadside results in fewer vehicle crashes involving trees. Imagine that.
That finding came from a DOT study on tree removal along a portion of I-385, as reported by The Greenville News. Trees growing within 50 feet from the edge of the interstate were removed during a widening project in 2010.
Five years before the project, there was an average of 12.4 crashes involving trees a year. Since the project, there have been 3.1 crashes.
It stands to reason: Remove those roadside trees and you'll have fewer roadside tree crashes.
Of course, the News pointed out that the DOT also installed more than 10 miles of guardrails along the highway. So presumably some of the safety improvements - fewer off-road collisions, fewer fatalities - were the result of those protective guardrails.
Too bad the DOT hasn't been willing to install guardrails along I-26 as an option to wholesale tree removal in the median. The DOT has determined that the trees along a 19-mile stretch between Summerville and I-95 must be virtually eliminated for safety reasons.
Critics rightly cite a variety of other reasons for the I-26 accident count, including speeding, reckless driving, drunken driving, texting while driving, and other irresponsible behavior.
But so far, the DOT puts the blame on median trees, and wants to have them removed so that a cable stay barrier can be installed in the center of the median.
The DOT contends that guardrails are too expensive for I-26.
Well, they weren't too costly for I-385.
Legislative critics of the clear-cutting plan for I-26 should be inquiring why the expense of guardrails is too great for the primary east-west interstate corridor in the state, but not for the Greenville interstate loop.
And those who object to the DOT's I-26 plan should keep up their demand for alternative safety improvements to counter the plan to clear-cut the median.
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