You Ask, We Investigate: Trash Along Interstate 49


NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA) – In this week’s ‘You Ask, We Investigate’ report, KNWA’s Katelynn Zoellner takes a closer look at trash along Interstate 49. You wanted to know why is there so much trash along the center median on the interstate and who is responsible for picking it up.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation is responsible for keeping state highways clean. The department spends in excess of $5 million a year just picking up litter along the 16,400 miles of highways in the state.

ARDOT Spokesman Danny Straessle said the trash along the interstate is nothing new.

“There’s always been debris, garbage, trash, you name it on the median along the corridor,” he said. “It’s just more visible now, because instead of grass, you’ve got pavement. There’s a white wall now and things show up against it quite easily.”

Straessle said crews get out on a regular basis to clean up the trash. He said it’s not a simple matter of taking a traditional street sweeper and sweeping it up.

“What it takes is a convoy of vehicles, about five or six in number,” he said. “On the front of the convoy you have our crews who are actually picking up the debris. Behind them is a large dump truck that that the trash goes into. Behind that is a traditional street sweeper that gets the smaller items that our personnel did not get to. Behind that you have a crash attenuator, which protects our crew. And, then behind that you have a vehicle towing a trailer that basically tells oncoming traffic to get into another lane.”

The process is very time intensive. Straessle said crews have to balance clean-up with other maintenance issues like pot holes and bridge repairs.

“I know that a lot of folks feel like litter is extremely important, but there are other maintenance issues that take priority over this,” he said. “We don’t neglect it, but it’s not as high on the list as some of other maintenance items.”

If you are looking to help combat the trash issue, there are a couple of ways you can take action.

“Do not litter,” Straessle said. “It’s amazing how much litter comes from motorists in the area. We have a problem across the state. We also have a very successful Adopt-a-Highway program. It’s a good way for everyone to get involved and it helps us fight the trash that is out there.”

You can learn more about the Adopt-a-Highway program here.

If there is something in your community that you want to know more about, we want to investigate it. You can send your questions to Katelynn at

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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