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ODOT now spending $10 million to clean up roadsides

COLUMBUS – It’s spring, it’s Earth Day, and it’s all happy – until you see litter, and you’re reminded of the human problem that haunts us all.

“Our highway crews are out on litter patrol all year, even through the winter when conditions allow. But come spring, litter reveals itself even more, especially as vehicle travel increases and people begin spring cleanup,” said Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks.

Since January, ODOT forces statewide have picked up over 89,000 bags of other people’s trash.

“Please do your part and keep your trash contained wherever you work, drive, or enjoy the outdoors,” Marchbanks said.

With Earth Day today, many of Ohio’s 1,400 Adopt-A-Highway groups will be out, honoring their pledge to keep highways in their corner of the planet clear of trash.

Diane Bovee with First Universalist Church in Lyons organized a litter pickup along their adopted section of State Route 120 in Fulton County this past weekend.

“We love doing the highway pickup. We’re among the oldest Adopt-A-Highway groups in Ohio. We have done it for close to 30 years,” said Bovee. “We’re not a small church, we’re a tiny church. We just think it’s the right thing to do.”

The Columbus Grove Lions Club in Putnam County has participated in the program since 1991. They have a scheduled pickup along their section of State Route 65 on Tuesday.

“It comes down to pride in your community. We have so many people that drive through Columbus Grove on State Route 65. It’s a good opportunity for the Lions Club to practice volunteerism,” said Tim Staley, club member.

He said when the group is out on their pickups, their community expresses appreciation. “We get a lot of thumbs-up. We get a lot of people that honk. You think of it as a thankless job, but you do take pride in it when it’s done, and it looks good.”

Staley said ODOT helps them carry out their dedication to public service. “They’ve been great to work with. They provide us all the trash bags, the safety vests to wear, and the signs to put up,” he said.

Since January, Adopt-A-Highway groups in Ohio have collected nearly 200 bags of trash.

Adopting a highway is free to groups and individuals. Groups are asked to complete at least four litter pick-up sessions per year.  ODOT provides vests, grabber tools, trash bags, and trash disposal for litter pickup sessions.

In addition to ODOT forces and Adopt-A-Highway groups, litter collection is also performed along state highways by the following:

  • Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) – ODOT works with 11 institutions on litter pickup along state highways. Since January, their crews collected over 24,000 bags of trash.
  • Interstate Business Solutions (IBS) – ODOT contracts with IBS to clean up litter in the state’s metropolitan areas (Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo, Akron, Canton, and Youngstown). Since January, the IBS team has collected over 31,343 bags of trash.
  • Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) – ODOT contracts with CEO to pick up along roadsides, and to clean encampment areas of unhoused individuals. Since January, the CEO team has collected nearly 25,000 bags of trash.

ODOT currently spends $10 million per year collecting trash along state and U.S. routes outside municipalities and all interstates except the Ohio Turnpike.

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