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Wanton, careless litterers dirty state highways

I travel Highway 62 daily and wonder why I see so much trash and junk along the highway. Between Vilas Road and Eagle Point, it's a mess. Our highways used to be beautiful — now they are starting to look worse than California's. Why are they not being cleaned up?

— Ron L., Eagle Point

Perhaps the better question, Ron, would be: How do our beautiful highways get so trashy in the first place?

Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Leaming says there's two types of litterers traveling our highways and byways: those who are unaware there's trash blowing out of the beds of their pickups and those who are just plain rude and throw their trash out their windows.

Common items ODOT crews find along state highways are tires, dirty diapers, needles, plastic bags, food wrappers, Styrofoam and urine bottles (presumably left by long-haul truckers).

ODOT uses community justice crews and their own workers to pick up trash along the highways. It also hires teenagers in the summer for its litter patrol.

To answer your question, sections of highways are cleaned on a rotation, but "it doesn't take very long, and pretty soon we have more trash to pick up," Leaming says.

"We all need to make sure our truck beds are clear of things that could blow out on the road." 

ODOT also has a nifty Adopt-A-Highway program for those who want to keep our highways looking beautiful. If you're interested, Ron, you can call Debra McKey at 541-665-5210.

Adopters must commit to litter pickup at least four times a year for at least one year.

"We're always looking for people to adopt a highway," Leaming says.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.