Interstate 26 trees vote

11 a.m. Monday

BCD Council of Governments

Barrett Lawrimore Conference Room

1362 McMillan Avenue - Suite 100

North Charleston

Whether to cut down most of the trees in the Interstate 26 median between Summerville and Interstate 95 could be decided Monday morning.

The issue is on the agenda for an 11 a.m. meeting of the Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester Council of Governments board in North Charleston, according to the agency website.

The board has the final say in whether the controversial $5 million federally-funded project will proceed. Opponents fear it will mar the landscape and create a less favorable impression of a highway considered a gateway to the Lowcountry.

Supporters of the state Department of Transportation project say the work is needed to make a dangerous section of I-26 safer.

About 32,500 vehicles travel the affected stretch of I-26 daily. Between 2007 and 2011, 44 people were killed and 709 were injured in 1,934 crashes there.

Half the wrecks involved cars running off the road. Fatalities happened at a rate three-to-four times higher in the median, officials said.

When the trees are cut down, the zone where drivers can recover from running off the road will grow from 25 feet wide to 46 feet wide on both sides of the interstate median, the DOT said.

The plan is to cut down trees in the median for 23 miles of the 30-mile stretch of interstate. Seven miles of median with wetlands and trees would not be affected, the DOT said.

In the cleared areas of interstate, cable guardrail will be placed down the middle of the median. In the wetlands areas where trees will stay, guardrail will be placed on both sides of the median, officials said.

The seven miles of wetland areas in the median where trees will remain are scattered along the length of the project.

The DOT said that it would like to be able to move forward with the 18-month project this year.