ODOT Maintenance Manager Steve Stone sighed and shook his head as he walked over to the green, 27-yard dumpster sitting in the back of his Central Point maintenance yard. A mountain of bright yellow trash bags, along with shredded pieces of wood, torn cardboard and a broken shopping cart, filled the dumpster.
“Five years ago, Rogue Disposal emptied that dumpster twice a month,” said Stone. “Now, we call them in to come empty it twice a week.”
Stone said the Central Point maintenance crew has spent more than $60,000 on trash pick-up and disposal over the last year alone. According to ODOT District Manager Jerry Marmon, the maintenance offices in Ashland and Grants Pass have spent roughly the same amount combatting the litter problem.
“The public money spent on clearing trash and disposal used to go to many other maintenance activities that benefit the public,” said ODOT District Manager Jerry Marmon. “As we’re forced to spend more and more taxpayer dollars just on trash, it feels like we’re throwing money away.”
In the Central Point maintenance section alone, which runs from Phoenix north through Medford to Valley of the Rogue State Park, one ODOT litter crew of 2-3 employees work state highways daily. Additionally, ODOT contracts with Jackson County Corrections crews daily to work along I-5, picking up trash that includes hazardous waste like needles,
urine bottles and human waste.
Stone said the trash multiplies quickly, especially when people fail to ensure their loads are secure. Anything not tied down can become roadside trash.
“We see a lot of boxes, a lot of cups, Styrofoam, plastics, tarps, and fast food containers,” said Stone.
The trash catches the attention of visitors to the Rogue Valley.
“Our guests notice the trash along the interstate and the north Medford exit as they’re driving to stay with us,” said Rogue Regency Inn Manager Bruce Hoevet. “They comment on the arear’s look. When they come back through, say after a week, and it isn’t picked up, they are telling us they’ll go somewhere else.”
ODOT continues to struggle with the amount of trash and debris along Interstate 5 and other state highways in the Rogue Valley. Litter clean-up is heaviest on the highway shoulders, overpasses, bridges and other public property along the Bear Creek Greenway where individuals have created a campsite.
ODOT regularly receives public comments about this epidemic. Maintenance offices based in Central Point, Ashland and Grants Pass direct clean-up operations throughout the Rogue Valley, employing litter crews and contracting with corrections crews.
The following are public comments ODOT received over the past year regarding trash and debris in the Rogue Valley. We edited the comments to protect each person’s identity. We answered each comment via the agency’s ASK ODOT program.
• I was told that ODOT was responsible for property around I-5. I live in Medford, Oregon and am appalled by the amount of debris found in the grassy areas around Barnett Rd and I-5. Who is responsible for taking care of this area? — Judy, January 29, 2018
• Dear ODOT, With great disappointment I have noticed a major change in the amount of trash along I-5 over the past two years. In the thirty years I’ve lived in Oregon it has never been this bad and embarrassing. Does the department have no pride anymore? I know budgets are tight, but it is shameful how much trash is along the highway from southern Oregon to the Washington border. Ashland to Medford is shockingly a mess. What has happened to the process? Thank you for letting me know what’s going on, why it has deteriorated, and when it can be cleaned up. — Nancy, December 12, 2017
• I wish to report comments made by many of my friends about how trashy the I-5 is between Central Point and Ashland and even to Siskiyou Summit. It is looking like a landfill – even though I have seen cleanup crews doing a small area several times in the last few months – they must be overwhelmed/understaffed. Is there still a litter law in Oregon? If so, it needs enforcement and warning signs! — Dan, January 2, 2018
• I have noticed that I-5, at least between Medford and Ashland, is trashed…meaning there is trash, litter, dead animals, car parts…all over. Are there no crews that keep highways cleaned? Who can I contact to get the ball rolling. It reflects poorly on our state and county to be so beset by litter. — Tracy, September 24, 2017
What is Adopt-A-Highway?
The Adopt-A-Highway program provides citizens who are concerned about Oregon an opportunity to clean up litter and remove noxious weeds along state highways. Work activities may also include graffiti removal and maintenance of existing landscaped areas.
Who May Participate?
• May be individuals, families, groups or businesses; however, the organization must be readily identifiable as verified with the Secretary of State, group bylaws, etc.
• Must be willing to commit to at least one year of volunteer service with a minimum of litter clean up four times a year or noxious weed removal two times a year.
• Must be 16 years of age or older with at least one adult supervisor present while the work is being done.
• Have the ability to walk in uneven terrain, lift and carry filled bags, and work safely around factors such as heavy traffic and high noise levels.
• Must provide their own transportation and set their own schedule.
Every organization will select a spokesperson (point of contact) who will be responsible for:
• Assuring that participants comply with the Adopt-A-Highway program requirements and safety procedures and has signed a liability release with ODOT;
• Coordinating transportation of participants to and from the work area;
• Picking up and returning the supplies provided by ODOT;
• Notifying ODOT of any flagged items.
How to Participate
Application forms are available online at http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/Maintenance/Pages/Adopt-A-Highway.aspx. You can also call ODOT’s White City office at 541-774-6388.