SCDOT stops plans to remove trees along scenic Hwy 61 after public feedback

VIDEO: SCDOT stops plans to remove trees along scenic Hwy 61 after public feedback

DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - State transportation officials have stopped plans to remove trees along scenic Highway 61 in Dorchester County after receiving feedback from the public.

On Thursday, officials with the South Carolina Department of Transportation released a statement saying they went back to the drawing board after residents disapproved of the removal of trees in previous proposals to make the highway safer.

The original proposed designs included two alternatives, one of which included the removal of 283 trees. The second alternative impacted 58 trees.

According to SCDOT, a majority of public comments disapproved of both alternatives due to the potential impacts to trees and the canopy along the highway.

“Additionally, roughly 40% of the comments requested increased enforcement as well as a reduction to the existing 55-mph speed limit,” SCDOT officials said. “The refined design will fit in the existing corridor and will not require the removal of any trees along SC 61.”

The new design calls for the following:

  • Repaving of the existing road
  • Paving 3 feet of the existing shoulder
  • Adding rumble strips on both the centerline and edge lines
  • Adding wider and brighter centerline and edge line pavement markings
  • Adding warning signs at the curves
  • Extending the 45-mph speed limit into Dorchester County to better match the current speed limit for SC 61 in Charleston County
  • Increased law enforcement presence.

State transportation officials said the new design was based on detailed crash analysis, stakeholder input, coordination with law enforcement and a thorough review of the more than 450 public comments received regarding the project.

“A detailed analysis of nearly seven years of crash data along the corridor also revealed that the fatal crashes were typically happening at night, involved speeding and/or driving under the influence,” SCDOT officials said."Sixty-three percent of all fatal crashes along the corridor had crossed the centerline. Fifty percent of all fatal crashes also occurred at curves along the highway."

SCDOT will now finalize the preliminary engineering of the project and expects to advance the project to the construction phase by late 2020.

“We are very thankful to be able to work with the community to develop a safety project that targets the right safety issues and maintains the scenic beauty of this historic highway in the Lowcountry”, says Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall. SCDOT Commission Chairman Robby Robbins added, “We are also appreciative of Governor McMaster’s support of a comprehensive approach to safety, including asking the South Carolina Department of Public Safety to assist with increasing the presence of law enforcement along SC 61.”

“We must be good stewards of the natural, historic beauty of our state and we must always strive to provide for the safety of South Carolinians,” said Gov. Henry McMaster. “Secretary Hall’s communication and collaboration with local leaders has resulted in a safety plan for this scenic highway that will achieve both of these goals. Because of this innovative plan, this road will be safer for our people than it has ever been before and it will be as beautiful as ever.”

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