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First responders laud new interstate cut-through

Posted: May 12, 2015 5:23 p.m.
Updated: May 13, 2015 1:00 a.m.
Jim Tatum/C-I

Members of various local emergency responders, including Lugoff Fire-Rescue, EMS, Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office, S.C. Highway Patrol, SCDOT and elected officials, including State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian Burns, and Kershaw County Councilman C.R. Miles gathered at a new cut-through on I-20 to officially bring it into service Friday. The cut-through will provide easier access to both sides of the interstate, cutting emergency response times and ultimately saving lives, according to LF-R Chief Dennis Ray.

It may look like just a wide spot of gravel and dirt in the median of a busy highway, but area emergency services are so happy with a new emergency vehicle cut through on I-20 they held a ceremony Friday to celebrate its opening.

Lugoff Fire-Rescue Chief Dennis Ray and members of his department, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office, S.C. Highway Patrol and the S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) joined State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian Burns and County Councilman C.R. Miles at the cut-through to officially bring it into service.

The cut-through gives emergency vehicles quicker access to either side of I-20 without having to travel several miles to the nearest exit to do so. For fire trucks and EMS crews, this ability to shave minutes off response time to a serious event is especially important and welcome.

“In those situations, minutes count, seconds count,” Ray said. “It is truly the difference between saving a life or not. This is a great thing for everyone -- for county residents and people traveling through. It is a low-cost solution to a major issue we had.”

The cut-through is located so heavier vehicles such as large fire trucks and ambulances not only can cross the median with no problems, but have plenty of visibility and room to get up to speed.

“The way the interstate is designed here, fire trucks and ambulances simply could not get across the median -- they were just too heavy. They had to go all the way to Elgin, exit, cross the highway, and come back,” Ray said. “This is a great opportunity for all of us -- fire, EMS, law enforcement, to have the access we need to do the job we need to do.”

But just as important, the cut-through represents what can be accomplished when various levels of public officials work together, Ray said.

“It was a great opportunity,” Ray said. “To see everyone come together for this purpose makes me feel good. This is a good example of synergy between local emergency services, state agencies, and elected officials. It’s very encouraging to see that.”

Ray thanked all who helped make it happen, starting with Sheheen, who he said he approached initially about finding a solution to the access problem.

Sheheen said he immediately went to SCDOT officials to see what could be done. SCDOT, in turn, was very helpful in finding a good, low-cost solution and getting it done quickly, he said.

Kershaw County Council Chairman Julian Burns also thanked Sheheen for his work in getting the cut-through and his support of area emergency services.

Miles, too, expressed his support.

“This will undoubtedly save lives,” he said.

First responders from various services said they were very happy with the cut-through. And while Friday marked the day the cut-through was officially placed into service, the services have been using it since it was actually finished.

“We used it twice last week,” Emergency Medical Technician Gerald Blanchard said. “It’s going to be a huge help to EMS -- to all of us.”

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