Trees in deadliest areas of I-26 to be cut down - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

Trees in deadliest areas of I-26 to be cut down

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SUMMERVILLE, SC - In a meeting Monday morning with Berkeley, Dorchester, Charleston Counties of Government a narrow decision was made to adapt a plan by the Department of Transportation that would eliminate some trees along Interstate 26.


The median of Interstate 26 from exit 199 in Summerville to exit 169 near Interstate 95 currently has countless pine trees and is blamed for 44 fatalities during a study from 2007-2011. The SCDOT began discussing possibly removing the trees after data showed that the stretch of road is one of the deadliest in the state.

The plan, which passed 14 to 13 votes, means 17 miles of trees will stay and about seven miles of trees get the ax in hopes of saving lives.

According to a presentation by the Department of Transportation, the number of crashes along the corridor is nearly eight times the state average. The number of fatalities is nearly 20% higher than average. The most common cause of those accidents is driving too fast for conditions.

"People are doing those things all over America on interstates but what's happening is people losing their lives at high rates here on I-26 coming into Charleston and exiting Charleston," Greg Elmore said. Elmore's son lost his life years ago near mm 183.

Some, however, disagree with getting rid of them.

"These trees help connect this entire area, but also it's important aesthetically," Natalie Olson said. "It's a very iconic gateway into the Lowcountry."

Olson works with the Coastal Conservation League, one of the main agencies wanting  the Berkeley Charleston Dorchester Council of Governments (BCD COD) to vote to keep the trees in place and adding cables to protect drivers from crashing.

The plan the state agency recommends is cutting down 17 miles of trees in the median and placing cables along the remaining seven miles. That plan costs around $5.3 million.


"To save lives, expense should not be a consideration, and removing all of the trees isn't going to fix the problem," she said. "The problem is the steep slope [along the side of the road], so even if the trees are going to be removed, accidents are still going to happen."

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