Columbia, SC (WLTX) - An environmental group says two of the proposals to fix the area heading into Columbia from Harbison, known as Malfunction Junction, could hurt the Harbison State Forest.
Currently, the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) has 49 proposals a part of what’s called the Carolina Crossroads project on how to improve traffic flow around that area.
Members of the Friends of Harbison State Forest say the Northern Arterial and Northern Expressway proposals would ruin the forest.
“You know you have air pollution from exhaust. You have land water pollution but then also one of the biggest concerns is the noise pollution,” Carmony Corley with Friends of Harbison State Forest explained.
“You’d have it basically right next to the forest. It be like having an elevated expressway next to your bedroom, so it would have some irreparable impacts on the forest,” Roy Shelley also of Friends of Harbison State Forest said. “God's not making any more forests. God's not making any more rivers. You can come out here and see things see how the land's existed for hundreds of years.”
Although the plans wouldn't intrude on the forest, Corley and Shelley say the effects of the two potential projects a part of SCDOT's I-20/26/126 corridor revitalization could deteriorate the forest’s natural state.
“This process is designed to get public input that is what we want. We want this solution to be something that we as a community come together to develop,” SCDOT Special Projects Manager Brian Klauk explained.
Klauk says they welcome the input. However, he says it's too early to tell what the impact would be on the forest if those options were chosen.
“All of our natural resources are a very big component to everything that we do,” Klauk explained. “So the environmental impact statement process drives us to look at potential impacts to any natural resources and how we can best avoid those impacts or minimize those impacts.”
The environmentalists say the forest is too precious to wait and see what could happen and want to get rid of those options all together.
"People come here just to get away and escape and be in a quiet, natural setting and with such a large increase in traffic and all these cars zooming by and horns honking that would just completely be disrupted,” Corley said with concern.
She also says the forest is a huge tourist attraction and the only forest in the Midlands. She says she would hate to see it negatively affected in anyway.
Group members are asking people to tell the DOT their concerns on their website: http://www.scdotcarolinacrossroads.com/alternatives/
The comment period for this part of the process ends November 18.
SCDOT officials will cut the list from 49 to just a few and will have more public input sessions next summer.
SCDOT hopes to start construction on the $1 billion project in 2019.
For more information about Friends of Harbison State Forest, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofHarbisonStateForest/