Transportation leaders say litter on interstates becoming a growing problem in Kansas

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OLATHE, Kan. — Kansas commuters see it everywhere they drive.

Roadside litter on interstates in the Sunflower State is a growing problem, one transportation leaders would like to end.

Ugly scenes like the trash scattered around the off-ramp at I-35 near 75th Street are typical. Trash bags, cans, bottles and other rubbish items are scattered throughout the grass. One driver commented that it looked as if a dumpster had been emptied there.

FOX4 spotted a number of roadside areas along I-35 in Johnson County that needed cleanup.

Mike Rinehart, an engineer with Kansas Department of Transportation, manages more than one thousand lane miles. Rinehart said KDOT can’t manage litter pickups right now since this is pothole repair season, and road maintenance is a higher priority for his workers.

“It’s a little bit frustrating because someone has to go collect that garbage,” Rinehart said. “It’s not anything that anyone’s enjoying. We’re getting phone calls. Folks want to see something better. We’d love to be able to give them something better.”

Rinehart said his office is seeking to hire new road maintenance workers. He said he’s also seeking to enter a contractural agreement with a third-party vendor, which will be used to collect roadside trash.

“We have only so many worker hours. We try and attribute that to the highest priority work we have, and that could be fixing guardrails, fixing signs or ensuring the surface is safe for drivers,” Rinehart added.

Rinehart said it’s impossible to pinpoint the exact source of the uptick in litter, since some items may be discarded by careless drivers and some may not. He said Adopt a Highway crews go out only a few times per year, and moreover, it’s up to all of us to stop littering.

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