State leaders to discuss tree removal on I 26

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The state Department of Transportation met with the Berkeley Charleston Dorchester Council of Governments in North Charleston Monday morning. Congressman Mark Sanford and Arthur Ravenel both made a pitch to keep the trees.SCDOT officials say removing trees in the median will make the interstate safer. They plan to cut down all the trees in the median from Summerville to Interstate 95.

Ravenel suggested the speed limit should be better enforced or reduced rather than clear the trees.

"When it comes to beauty, trees and the environment, it's non partisan," he said.Berkeley Sen. Larry Grooms filed a joint resolution back in February that says the DOT can't proceed with the project until they report to the Transportation Review Committee for which Grooms is the Chairman.Deadly crashes are part of the reason the DOT plans to cut down the trees that sit on the median between mile markers 199 and 170. The DOT said 1,934 crashes happened on the stretch between January 2007 and November 2011. The crashes killed 44 people and injured 709 people, officials said. The plan includes clearing all trees from the median and putting up a cable guard rail between the travel lanes. There is 25 feet of land from the travel lanes to the trees. The improvements would give motorists 46 feet to the guard rail.Officials said the cable rail would almost double the amount of space between the road and the barrier. They also said the cable had more "give" than trees, which could protect drivers' lives.

DOT officials also point out that the number of fatalities on state roads could hinder future funding.The South Carolina Coastal Conservation League has also asked Gov. Nikki Haley to prevent the agency from cutting the trees.The DOT said the project would cost $5 million.

A public hearing will be held to talk about Project Corridor on Aug 1 at Summerville High School from 5 to 7 p.m.