RALEIGH, N.C. — Trash being dumped along Triangle roads is getting bigger, heavier and harder to clean up, authorities said.
Rather than fast-food wrappers and drink cups, furniture and construction debris makes up a growing amount of the litter volunteers and inmate work crews have to clean up along area roads and highways, authorities said.
"People will get a pickup truck and load up a couple of mattresses and a box spring and a La-Z-Boy, and they either put a couple of bungee cords or one strap (on it) and it all breaks at 70 mph," said Chris McGee, an engineer with the state Department of Transportation. "Now, I've got a box spring or a mattress or a recliner. I've got something big laying in the roadway."
The DOT has 23 maintenance workers to cover Wake County, and McGee said they focus more on safety issues than aesthetics. That means patching potholes, repairing guard rails and cutting grass come before collecting trash on the priority list, he said.
Still, DOT crews picked up 3 million pounds of trash along highways statewide in just one week in April. McGee said the amount of roadside trash could be cut in half if people properly secured their loads before driving off.
Inmate work crews pick up the bulk of the highway trash in the Triangle.
An inmate crew cleared trash from the side of the Interstate 440 Inner Beltline near Gorman Road Friday morning. But by noon, a large fence post was lying in the grass at the side of the highway there.
"You can't conquer an interstate," said Lanny Mabry, a corrections officer who oversees inmate crews along Interstate 40. "You can come out here and clean the trash up ... and you come back two or three days later and it's just like it was when you (started)."
Highway Patrol troopers rarely write littering citations because they have to catch someone in the act, authorities said.