Local News

Inmates Return to Roadside Litter Duty

Posted February 27, 2008 11:06 p.m. EST
Updated February 28, 2008 5:43 a.m. EST

— The state Transportation and Correction departments on Wednesday kicked off a new pilot program aimed at improving safety during litter removal along Wake County’s highways.

In July, the Department of Correction pulled its roadside crews after inmate Charles Wilson was killed while picking up garbage along Interstate 40, near Lake Wheeler Road.

Since then, litter along the highways has piled up.

"It doesn't look good for North Carolina at all,” motorist Dana Coughley said.

“There are legal matters that had to be addressed too, and that takes time to work through,” DOT Spokesman Ernie Seneca explained when asked why it has taken so long to restart the inmate litter crews.

Under the new program, inmate labor crews will be organized into larger groups and assigned over longer stretches of highway to help ensure safety.

“The goal is to have better efficiency, better safety for the inmates (and) our workers, plus the traveling public,” Seneca said.

Thirty-two inmates and as many as eight correctional officers will be divided into crews. They will pick up littler along I-40, Interstate 540, Interstate 440, U.S. Highway 1/64 and the U.S. Highway 64/264 Bypass four days a week.

“Roadside litter remains a tremendous challenge for North Carolina, and the efforts of crews from both NCDOT and NCDOC play a key role in keeping our highways clean and safe,” Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett said.

The DOT is also closing road shoulders and using electronic highway signs to warn approaching motorists of inmate work. If the pilot program works in Wake County, DOT officials said it will be launched in other counties.

Each year, the DOT spends more than $12 million on inmate labor for litter removal. The DOT also relies on the efforts of nearly 6,000 Adopt-a-Highway volunteers.

Last year, litter removal costs totaled $16.5 million throughout the state.