The public finally got a chance to speak on the S.C. Department of Transportation's plan to hack down most of the trees in the I-26 median, and are they ever opposed to the idea. The overwhelming response at Tuesday's hearing should end any further plan to clear-cut most of the median from Summerville to I-95.

Indeed, the sentiment should encourage the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments to adopt a plan that will preserve as many trees as possible, while recommending alternative safety measures along the highway.

And safety options are available, from guardrails to heightened enforcement against motorists who routinely drive with reckless abandon.

The COG can be further guided by Dorchester County Council, which unanimously recommended that the scenic interstate between Summerville and I-95 be preserved.

Unfortunately, COG's ad hoc committee on I-26 voted last December in support of the DOT plan, in advance of the public hearing.

The committee ought to reconsider its decision in view of the overwhelming sentiment in support of preserving the trees along I-26, expressed at Tuesday's hearing. Of the 150 people in attendance, only six stood to support the DOT's tree removal plan.

Indeed one of the ad hoc committee members who voted in favor of the DOT clear-cut plan no longer supports it.

Local highway commissioner Jim Rozier told our reporter Tuesday that he supports only limited tree removal where most accidents have occurred. Dorchester County Council took a similar position in its resolution.

Those who spoke at the hearing were generally in favor of retaining the median trees for their scenic value on a gateway corridor to the Lowcountry. Others cited the safety contribution of trees in the median, particularly at night when they block the glare of oncoming headlights.

Many speakers made the point that trees don't cause accidents, and cited excessive speed and the high number of distracted drivers they observe on that rural stretch of interstate.

Even the DOT director of traffic engineering agreed. Tony Sheppard said the leading causes of accidents are distracted driving, falling asleep, driving while drunk and speeding.

A safety solution should address those problems, without destroying the scenic aspects of the highway corridor. COG should so instruct the Department of Transportation, and copy the highway patrol.

And if another safety solution is more costly, DOT should be expected to make up the difference, recognizing that the cheapest plan isn't necessarily the best.