Nothing but trash

Published 6:04 pm Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Last week, a Sound Off caller asked a legitimate question: Tired of having to dodge nails and construction debris, litter and things that could puncture a tire, or worse, on the road, the caller asked, “Who is responsible for keeping the roads trash-free?”
Josh Kay, Washington city manager, said the city handles their debris through Public Works, though there is no dedicated crew assigned to the job. City crews jump in when the need to pick up road debris becomes apparent.
Woody Jarvis, district engineer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, said essentially the same: “If (an employee) rides by an obstruction in the roadway, they’re required to stop and get it.” Jarvis added that the public, the State Highway Patrol and the Sheriff’s Office are good at letting the DOT know when road debris is a problem.
But Jarvis had some other interesting points on the subject of Beaufort County trash: There are 1800 miles of road in the county and 40 to 50 DOT employees at any given time. Even if the DOT was solely dedicated to picking up road litter to the exclusion of all else, each employee would be responsible for 90 miles of road. No matter now fast they worked and how much garbage was picked up, according to Jarvis, the next week those same roads would be back to their filthy ways. For the DOT, picking up litter equates — in both expense and man-hours — with work filling potholes, painting road-surface markings, repaving, fixing stoplights and more that keep the infrastructure in working order. Every time a debris pickup is made, an employee or two is taken away from those other tasks.
“It’s something we ponder a lot,” Jarvis said. “We could spend all day every day picking up trash … If I pick up (Highway) 264 today, it’ll need it again by this time next week. It’s just a thankless job that we can’t get ahead of.
“It’s a problem. And it does make a statement about our area.”
The statement: many people in Beaufort County don’t care if our roads look trashy.
Action can be taken, however. Approximately 12,000 miles of North Carolina roadways have been adopted by volunteer groups, by individuals concerned about the problem with trash. A two-mile stretch of road to clean (supplies provided), and a road sign planted at both ends designating it as your road (because you care), can be had by simply contacting the Beaufort County Adopt a Highway coordinator Debra Roberson at 252-946-3689.
So, in answer to the Sound Off caller’s question, “Who is responsible for keeping the roads trash-free?”
We are. And if we don’t care enough to keep the roads clear of debris and garbage, we have no one to blame but ourselves.