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North Charleston is spending $2 million a year to cut grass on state-owned roads

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The grass along Rivers Ave. is cut by the City of North Charleston every two weeks.

Grass levels along local roads have been reaching new heights.

For weeks, drivers could see overgrown weeds in medians along Rivers Avenue that eventually grew several feet tall before the city of North Charleston trimmed them down Monday.

City spokesman Ryan Johnson explained when contacted by The Post and Courier Monday that weeds grow rapidly in the summer and that Rivers Avenue — U.S. Highway 52 — was scheduled to be cut later that day.

Rivers is a state-owned road, so it falls on the state to cut grass in the median. But many residents may not know that North Charleston is subsidizing the state to cut state-owned rights of way.

North Charleston pays contractors around $2 million to mow along roads that are supposed to be maintained by the S.C. Department of Transportation, including Rivers Avenue, Dorchester Road and Interstate 526.

Between DOT grass-cutting cycles, the city cuts the areas because residents expect them to be trimmed.

“SCDOT is doing the best they can with the funding they receive," Johnson said. "People are going to associate the lack of maintenance to the city of North Charleston, and assume it’s a failure on our part."

DOT officials agreed that roads should be cut more often, but a local engineer said resources are limited.

Grass-cutting cycles are based on tight DOT budgets that agency engineers use to determine how often roads should be cut.

DOT hires contractors to cut grass on S.C. interstates six times a year, and primary roads such as U.S. 17 and 52 four times a year, said Arnold Blanding, a DOT maintenance engineer who oversees Charleston County.

DOT spokesman James Law acknowledged that highways should be cut more than four times per year. But he recognized that most cities have shouldered the responsibility to cut highways within city limits.

"Whether it’s a state road or not, I don't know of any cities that don’t cut grass on state highways," Law said.

Goose Creek spends more than $170,000 to cut highway rights of way, city-owned bike trails, sidewalks in the city's downtown and water tower sites.

The city cuts state-owned highways 14 times a year.

"Unfortunately, if we don’t cut the SCDOT right of way, it doesn’t’ get cut," said City Administrator Jake Broom.

DOT officials said they don't know of any plans to increase funding to be able to cut roads more often. 

Ultimately, municipalities cut the roads because the people want it done.

"They just see crews in reflective shirts on tractors and riding mowers and they don’t necessarily know or care who is paying them — they just want the grass cut," Broom said.

Follow Rickey Dennis on Twitter @RCDJunior.

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