Proposal for I-26 tree removal faces strong opposition

Strong opposition to SCDOT I-26 tree removal

SUMMERVILLE, SC (WCSC) - The public had a chance to comment on a plan by the South Carolina Department of Transportation to remove the trees along 23 miles of Interstate 26 northwest of Charleston.
The department wants to remove the trees to improve safety along the interstate between I-95 and Summerville where 44 people were  killed between 2007 and 2011. More than 700 people were hurt in almost 2,000 crashes during the same period.

"We're having fatalities at about 20 percent higher rate on this section of the roadway, and when we delve into the data and looking at where these were occurring, they were occurring at a higher rate in the median," explains Tony Sheppard, Director of Traffic and Engineering at SCDOT.

According to the SCDOT, distracted driving and speeding are the main reasons for the crashes. Opponents argue that's where the focus and funds should be.

"You can't fix dumb, and dumb is no motorcycle helmets, texting, drinking. If they want to do anything that costs nothing is change the speed limit from 70 to 65," says Summerville resident Bob Wamboldt.

However, supporters, while few in the crowd, are opting for safety over aesthetics.

"I drive this on a regular basis, and I look at the number of crosses that are attached to the trees," says Charlestonian Jack Stinson. "I've seen many wrecks where cars have gone into the trees, and I feel that it's necessary to move the trees and put up barriers."

DOT officials say the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments must vote before the project can move forward.

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