During the 2014 legislative session, we transferred up to $400 million to go towards major state highway projects. Since session ended however, I have received numerous phone calls and emails from people concerned not with the drivability of our roads but rather the amount of trash on the sides of our highways.
This trash has only been made more visible by the arrival of spring weather and with that, the melting of snow. Because I have heard from so many people regarding this, I did a bit of research, and today, I want to share with you the state’s efforts to clean up Indiana’s highways and byways.
On April 5, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) kicked off their annual Trash Bash. This will run through April 27 and coincides with National Earth Day in order to raise awareness of litter. These efforts will be carried out by INDOT maintenance crews, Indiana Department of Correction offender crews as well as Adopt-A-Highway volunteers.
Last year alone, participants collected more than 20,678 bags of trash from alongside 3,400 miles of Indiana roadways. They also collected 1,256 cubic yards of loose debris which included some interesting items, including an electric meter, laptop, horse whip and even some cash!
Not only is this a great program because it cleans up our state and makes it look even more beautiful, but I think this is a great opportunity for offenders to contribute positively to society even while they are still serving time. This will teach a work ethic and sense of community that will hopefully stay with them long after they have completed their time.
In light of the increased number of crews cleaning the roadside, I think it is appropriate that this week is also Work Zone Awareness Week. In 2012, more than 50 people were killed in job-related traffic accidents. Slow-downs on the highway can be frustrating, especially after a long day at work when you really just want to get home, but it is important to remember that these individuals, whether they are picking up trash or repairing the road, are people’s family members. If that were my family member or yours, we would want people to slow down, use caution and consider their safety, so it is important that we do the same for others.
While offenders are one of the main groups that will be participating, there are still many things that you and I can do to keep Indiana’s highways clean. For example, INDOT suggests carrying a trash bag in your car so that you always have somewhere to put trash and aren’t tempted to just throw it out the window. If you see that someone else has illegally dumped their garbage, you can also report the area to your local transportation, public works or conservation office.
If you would like to learn more about the Trash Bash, please visit http://www.in.gov/indot/2596.htm.