Look for better plan next time, DOT

info@islandpacket.comDecember 19, 2013 

It's unfortunate that the S.C. Department of Transportation could not find a better option when widening a stretch of U.S. 278 in Okatie at Indian Hill Baptist Church.

Pastor Doug Ludlam of the Indian Hill Baptist Church is correct that the recent road widening project, which brings traffic within three feet of some headstones in his church's cemetery, is dangerous.

Such a narrow shoulder gives drivers along U.S. 278 little room to mauneuver. Within seconds of veering off the road, drivers would plow into headstones. It also poses a serious threat to cemetery visitors, laying flowers and other items graves, not anticipating a threat from nearby traffic.

And that doens't speak to the potetional damage to the headstones, some of which date back to 1886 and bear the names of historic Lowcountry families and Civil War soldiers.

The situation increases the liklihood of a repeat of an 2010 incident when a driver plowed through the cemetery, taking out a tree and bush but somehow missing the headstones. Other headstones have not been so lucky, damaged by wrecks.

DOT officials seem unphased by the situation. "I don't think it makes a difference," said DOT program manager Brent Rewis. "(It's) 2.4 feet from what they had prior to the widening."

But we believe a couple of feet can make a difference when a driver accidentally leaves the road and is attempting to correct and get back on course.

It's too late to rebuild the shoulder. And DOT seems OK with the result. No room remains for a guardrail.

We can only hope DOT will be more cautious with future widening projects.

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