"What's up with that?" - Trash on highways - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

"What's up with that?" - Trash on highways

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A recent 'What's Up With That' post on ABC 33/40'S Facebook page comes from   Kathy Spratlin Sherrer who wrote, "I would like to see someone address the problem of trash along our roadsides!!! It's a huge problem in Alabama!"

Kathy, we agree.

It's easy to toss it out, but it costs millions to pick it up.

It's a never ending cycle. We've found couches, and chairs and mattresses. But the bulk of this debris is stuff that people throw out, the Coke cup and the beer can and just the general trash, that's a conscious decision someone is making to throw it out," says ALDOT engineer Brian Davis.

Davis says that decision to litter costs Alabama taxpayers, millions.

"These same people who are throwing this stuff out, we're taking their tax revenues and cleaning their debris up," Davis explains. "People want to know what we do about it, and I don't think there's anybody in the metro area that is ever satisfied with what we do."

In Jefferson County alone, where four interstates intersect, ALDOT spends over $2 million each year on litter pickup.

The state has two different contracts. One for trash, and one for street sweeping.

"We spend $1.6 million a year on litter pickup, we spend over $500,000 on sweeping," says Davis.

Every two weeks, litter crews are on highways and interstates in Jefferson County picking up rubbish.

That money comes out of the county's maintenance budget.

Davis says, ALDOT shouldn't have to spend a dime.

"If people took some pride in our region, that's $2.1 million that I could put back on maintenance, for guardrail repairs, for pothole repairs, for sign upgrades, all that money comes out of a maintenance budget," Davis explains. "We have very limited resources. We basically are in maintenance mode. We're not building a lot of new facilities. We are maintaining the ones that we have. Couple that with we're having to peel money off the top to pick up other people's trash that could be going to making our roadways even safer. It's just a shame."

Each city and county is responsible for trash pickup on roads they maintain. Due to Jefferson County's bankruptcy, money is too tight to even send out crews for county roads.

But, along the interstates, ALDOT's crews are there for one reason.

"They're not out there for any other purpose other than the necessity of having to be out there for someone else's negligence. So if you're going to force us to be out there doing something we'd really rather not do, at least have the courtesy to slow down and keep our workers safe," Davis says.

To litterbugs everywhere, Davis poses this question.

"We wouldn't throw it out in our yards, why would we throw it out on the roadways that leads to our homes?"

Davis says ALDOT doesn't use prisoners for cleanup very much because it isn't as cost effective as it used to be.

Davis says it may very well be that if the trend of having to do more with less continues, then litter pickup would be one of the first things to go. He says that's because maintenance is a top priority.

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