The in basket: Laura Lewis writes, “What can be done to stop the ridiculous amount of garbage on Highway 3 to Belfair? Who is responsible? When and how is this happening? And why is it continuing? This has been a long-term problem.
“It is truly depressing and makes Kitsap look like a dump. I have relatives visiting from out of state and driving around makes me feel like I live in a place that has zero pride, I am actually kind of embarrassed. Can anything be done?”
It was just about a year ago that Susan Digby said essentially the same thing about the freeway between Bremerton and Silverdale.
“There is an astonishing amount of trash along the highway,” she wrote then. “My concern is that when heavy rains come, this trash, now less trapped by vegetation because the brush has been cut, will make its way with storm water into the Sound.
The out basket: The highway leading to Belfair (I assume Laura means southbound) is frequented by all of Waste Management’s garbage trucks and innumerable vehicles hauling yard waste to the recycling companies along that route.
Waste Management works at keeping garbage from flying out of its trucks, but their success largely depends on how well its customers secure the plastic sacks and loose paper.
I’m not sure that stretch of Highway 3 is much worse than other local highways, or that it gets any better past Barney White Road, where all the loaded garbage trucks turn off.
As regards cleaning the mess up after it lands, I’m afraid that in the battle for the growing share of transportation dollars not spent on moving people, litter control has fallen behind storm water control and salmon habitat enhancement as a priority.
Claudia Bingham-Baker, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Olympic Region, calls Joe Citizen instrumental in keeping litter off the roadways in the first place.
“WSDOT’s capacity to clean up litter from state highways is diminishing with its shrinking resources,” she said. “We do work with other agencies, such as the Ecology Youth Corps and occasionally Department of Corrections inmate crews, to tackle the problem. (But) more and more, we must dedicate our maintenance resources to more pressing issues that are needed to preserve our highway infrastructure and keep traffic safely moving.
“We agree that litter is a blight on our highways. Your reader asked who is responsible. Anyone who does not secure his load, or who carelessly throws garbage out a car window, or who purposefully uses public right of way as a dumping site, is responsible. Laws and fines already exist to discourage such behavior, but we still see the results of that behavior every day.
“WSDOT does what it can to keep our highways clean. We regularly sweep highway shoulders, wash highway signs, clean drains of debris, and clear lanes of large objects. But to tackle the day-to-day litter problem, we need the public’s help, first, by not letting debris fly loose from their vehicles, and second, by actively participating in a solution by signing up with WSDOT’s “Adopt A Highway” program.
“Over 1,100 active volunteer Adopt A Highway groups are already registered with WSDOT, and I’m sure your reader could find a local group that could use another hand. To learn more about the Adopt A Highway program, I invite your reader to visit: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/operations/adoptahwy/ .