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Caltrans: Trash Is Piling Up Along San Diego Highways

Caltrans officials stand in front of what they said is two weeks worth of col...

Credit: Matt Hoffman/KPBS News

Above: Caltrans officials stand in front of what they said is two weeks worth of collected trash, April 18, 2018.

The California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, said since last July it has picked up over 30,000 cubic yards of trash and debris, where it normally sees upwards of 22,000 cubic yards per year.

The agency attributed part of the increase in the trash to an uptick in homeless encampments along freeways.

"It’s common for encampments to occur under ... most of our bridges," said Caltrans District 11 Chief of Maintenance Everett Townsend. District 11 covers San Diego and Imperial counties. "Sometimes it’s not as visible to the traveling public."

Caltrans said it usually spends around $5.3 million a year cleaning up San Diego and Imperial County highways.

"We bring out probationers, parolees," Townsend said. "They help to provide that and perform litter pickup."

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Despite that, this year trash costs are rising. A Caltrans fact sheet from 2017 said the agency removes "22,200+ cubic yards of litter a year in San Diego and Imperial Counties."

Caltrans officials said since last July, they have already collected 30,000 cubic yards of trash just in San Diego.

"It’s a constant issue on our highways," Townsend said. So far, Caltrans has spent $4.8 million picking up debris and costs are rising, he said.

"We still have two-and-half months left in this fiscal year," Townsend said. "So it’s hard to tell. But we expect (the cost) to be about the same or more."

Caltrans officials said the most trash in San Diego is found along interstates 5 and 805.

Caltrans said since last July it has picked up over 30,000 cubic yards of trash and debris, where it normally sees upwards of 22,000 cubic yards per year.

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