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Driving You Crazy: All the trash along I-25 makes Denver look so trashy

Question: Doesn't CDOT ever sweep this stuff up?
Photo Dec 09, 11 33 33 AM.jpg
Posted at 4:55 AM, Dec 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-10 07:50:39-05

Tim from Thornton writes, “What’s driving you crazy? Driving through Denver on I-25 and seeing so much trash all along the road next to the divider wall. Doesn't any sweeper ever get sent out to clean it up? It makes Denver look so trashy.”

I completely agree with this Tim. I would love to see our highways clear of all trash and have the landscaping maintained. Some of the weeds that are growing along the highway are huge. Some are growing out of retaining walls. CDOT maintenance workers tell me they spend a lot of time and resources trying to recover and remove highway debris and trash, but it is just one of the many tasks they have to complete. One of the major issues they tell me they have to deal with is drivers failing to secure loads and illegally dumping trash.

I talked to CDOT Region One (Denver area) Maintenance Superintendent John Lorme. His answer was so good and in depth it is best if you read what he said.

“As you may know, our priorities are ranked by safety and average daily traffic. Litter/trash recovery and homeless encampment removal are not at the top of our priorities, although we believe it is very important! We live here too.

Our crews do incredible work. Each of our maintenance crew focuses on the preservation of all types of roadways, roadsides, structures and facilities as close as possible to their original condition. This consists of performing the services and operations necessary to provide safe traveling highways. The crews are skilled in keeping all highways at full service with minimum the expense and the least inconvenience to the traveling public as possible.

They are required to maintain a portion of the following assets: Interstate Highways, US Highways, State Roads and Frontage Roads. This includes the state's busiest interstates, on/off ramps, overpasses/bridges, sound walls/jersey walls, culverts, sidewalks, curbing, fencing, paved shoulders, unpaved shoulders, traffic (e.g., signs, pavement markings, guardrails, impact attenuators, highway lighting, and signals) and other special facilities.

MORE: Read more traffic issues driving people crazy

Our first priority is to safety of the traveling public. This includes 24/7 removal of any on highway road debris. Priority comes to opening blocked traffic lanes, safety-related guard rail repairs, crash attenuator/end treatment repairs, sign replacements, etc. During winter months this includes snow and ice removal operations. We maintain all Interstates, US Highways, and Colorado State Roads as close to their normal operating condition as possible.

We are also responsible for infrastructure condition preservation. Keeping the roadways in good standing and to keep up with any repairs that are needed. That includes road surfaces, bridge decks, filling potholes, that sort of thing. We area in charge of freight mobility and economic vitality. Monitoring speed, travel time, and the reliability of key networks.

After all that we keep up with the environment and livability of the highways. Cutting down or controlling the weeds, doing any off-highway mowing, cleaning up the stormwater runoff areas and clearing solid deicer in the winter. We will also, as time allows, to clear the highways of any litter, trash and graffiti.
The reason I detailed this is to show the parameters CDOT is able to work with when managing roadside debris and litter in our right of ways.

Another major limitation is the amount of our maintenance budget, CDOT has for managing roadside trash and litter. As with counties and the management of their right of ways, CDOT has numerous lane miles to maintain. There are over 3,700 lane miles in just the Denver metro area. The entire metro maintenance budget is only $36 million and we are currently spending over $3 million a year just picking up trash and litter in the Denver metro area.

Yes, the increased debris along the walls does drive me crazy. It is a seemly impossible task to keep up with. I have brooming scheduled on a monthly basis, although I will acknowledge it needs more attention. All I can do for now is look at conduct brooming operations on a bi-weekly basis.”

All that from CDOT Region One (Denver area) Maintenance Superintendent John Lorme. So Tim, like everything else, it comes down to time and money. If CDOT would increase it’s budget for cleanup we would see less trash and debris on our highways. That isn’t likely to happen this year or any time soon. It would also help if people would not litter or if the penalty for littering was increased. Imagine if the fine for littering was $10,000. I’m pretty sure our roadways would be a lot cleaner.

Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 20 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on iTunes , Stitcher , Google Play or Podbean.