COG to host public hearing for I-26 tree removal
The Berekeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments discussed the progress of the highly controversial I-26 Median Safety Project at its meeting Dec. 16.
Although not official yet, the ad-hoc committee created for the project is planning to host a public hearing regarding the options moving forward.
The hearing is tentatively planned for Jan. 21, 2014 at Summerville High School from 5 – 7 p.m.
Between the last COG meeting on July 22 when the Median Safety Project first appeared on the agenda and this month’s meeting, the committee has met three times with the state Department of Transportation to discuss DOT’s plan to cut down all of the trees in the median of I-26 from Summerville to I-95.
The section of the highway is known for its high fatality rates, which studies show result from drivers crashing into the median trees.
The plan got heavy negative feedback since its first proposal in October 2012 and the General Assembly tasked the COG with investigating and making a decision on the project.
DOT proposed either removing the trees or shielding drivers from them.
The first plan would cost an estimated $5 and involve removing the trees and installing the standard DOT three-stranded cable wire to the center of the median.
The second plan would cost an estimated $10 million and involve removing some trees and installing a high-tension cable around the area.
But COG Chairman Dan Davis said the project is not as simple as everyone had originally anticipated.
“Really the issue is the grade of the embankment. The gulley is 25 ft. below the roadway, if someone goes off the road they have no choice but to hit a tree. It’s not as simple as we thought,” he said.
The ad-hoc committee voted 4-2 at its most recent meeting to move forward with the original plan to remove all of the trees in the median of the 29.6 mile corridor.
Mayor Bill Collins is a member of the committee and voted in favor of the plan.
COG Executive Director Ron Mitchum explained the COG board of directors is tasked with determining whether or not to accept the committee’s recommendation. He said the group will host a public hearing to inform the public of the proposed changes, followed by a 15-day comment period.
Once the hearing is complete, the COG will consider all of the information and the public input before making a final decision.
The COG took no action at its Dec. 16 meeting.
Officials are continuing to coordinate the upcoming public hearing and will release details to the public as soon as they are available.