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Philly's trashy highways have PennDot spending half its cleanup budget on our five counties

Michael Boren, Staff Writer

Updated: Thursday, March 8, 2018, 11:21 AM

PennDot spent $5.6 million cleaning up litter and debris along its roads in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties between July 2016 and June 2017.

Chip Addis can’t stand the trash along the Blue Route and I-95.

Just another day: Litter along a ramp connecting I-95 north to I-476 north. Chip Addis
Litter next to the exit from I-476 northbound to Lancaster Avenue westbound. Chip Addis
Litter adjacent to Interstate 95 in Northeast Philadelphia. Jim Pavlock
Junk finds a home along this Vine Street Expressway (I-676) off-ramp near 22nd Street in Center City. Jim Pavlock
Photo Gallery: Philly's trashy highways have PennDot spending half its cleanup budget on our five counties

He has written to state legislators, posted pictures on PennDot’s Facebook page, and even complained to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

“Trash along the curbs is just sort of accepted, and nobody even seems to really be that concerned about it,” said Addis, 54, who lives in Radnor and takes the Blue Route to get to his kids’ volleyball and lacrosse games, and I-95 for family vacations to Maryland. “It sends a message we don’t really care about what this place looks like.”

Similar to Philadelphia, where residents’ complaints to 311 about trash have surged, PennDot has witnessed a spike in drivers’ complaints about trash in the five-county region.

PennDot spends millions each year removing litter from its highways. The cleanups statewide cost $12.6 million between July 2016 and June 2017, and $5.6 million of that — nearly half — was spent in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties and Philadelphia counties. (It costs $5.6 million to repave 19 miles of state roads.)

If you’re frustrated, well, so is PennDot.

“Litter on our roadways is a never-ending problem,” spokesman Bob Kent said. “Within two weeks of cleaning a heavily traveled expressway, such as I-95 or I-476, drivers cannot even tell the work was performed.”

Kent tied the surge in complaints to people becoming more cognizant of how to report trash. He also said drivers are more likely to file complaints if they see that the trash gets picked up.

Addis and other Philly.com readers sent photos of what they encounter on the region’s highways:

Just another day: Litter along a ramp connecting I-95 north to I-476 north.

PennDot spent four times the amount of money cleaning litter and debris in Philadelphia’s five-county district than in Pittsburgh’s three-county district from July 2016 to June 2017. (Philly’s district has three times the population of Pittsburgh’s.)

[Trash on your Philly block: How you — and the city — can get rid of it]

PennDot decides where — and how quickly — to respond based on factors such as the size of the mess and the volume of safety-related issues like potholes, which take precedence over litter. The agency manually removes litter building up on the sides of roads and, in Philadelphia, has trucks sweep highway shoulders four days a week.

PennDot also participates in programs like Adopt a Highway and the Great American Cleanup of PA, which enlist volunteers to pick up trash.

To file complaints about trash with PennDot, call 1-800-FIX-ROAD or go to customercare.penndot.gov.

Michael Boren, Staff Writer

Read full story: Philly's trashy highways have PennDot spending half its cleanup budget on our five counties

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