Trash clutters Bend Parkway roadsides, prompts complaints; ODOT wants to hear from public
(Update: Adding video, comments from ODOT)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Bend Parkway is used by thousands of Central Drivers every day. People can see how the roadway looks and what sometimes clutters the roadsides -- trash. We wanted to look into a complaint about trash cluttering the road.
Oregon Department of Transportation crews are scheduled to pick up litter once a week on the entire stretch of the highway through Bend. By Trader Joe's on the north end, I found plastic bags and drink bottles laying on the ground.
A Bend woman reached out to NewsChannel 21 this week about trash building up on city streets, especially along the north end of the parkway. She said she had called officials and yet still has "not seen anyone cleaning up the abundance of trash that continues to collect."
"It's disgusting to drive along that part of the road," she wrote.
ODOT's regional spokeswoman said Friday the agency takes such complaints seriously and does tackle the chore on at least a weekly basis, while welcoming public input.
"We do have crews out there at least once a week cleaning up the litter, and we look for help from the public," Region 4 Public Information Officer Kacey Davey said.
But she said litter pickup has to be a secondary priority to keeping the highways open and spafe, from plowing to repairs and incident response teams.
When ODOT does the cleanups, a truck follows crews on the shoulder to move traffic over, for worker safety. The Adopt-a-Highway program is a way volunteers can help clean up roadside letter, but Davey said in high-traffic urban areas, ODOT doesn't allow volunteers, citing safety concerns and, in the parkway's case, the narrow road shoulders.
"In the summertime, we especially utilize the (Deschutes County) Sheriff's (jail) inmate crews to help us remove trash off of the highway," she said, adding that it's partly based on availability and the cost for using inmate crews. There's also a Youth Litter Patrol program, but Davey said there was only one applicant last year.
But one county resident said the trash is as bad as it's been in his 20 years here. He believes it has to do with an increase in the population, and homeless people living along the parkway.
Davey said ODOT welcomes information from the public and has a special way to do that.
"We have a program at ODOT called Ask ODOT, where people can reach out via phone or email, and any of those questions or concerns get routed to us," she said. "We respond within a couple of business days, so that's usually how we hear from the public."