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Lee County highway trash deters tourists from visiting, endangers drivers

Trash littered along our highways is not only a deterrent to tourists from visiting Lee County. The mess, which can include “wheelbarrows” and “hot tubs” in some cases, can be a severe driving hazard.

Barbara Carlton saw a problem along Interstate 75 and she could not drive away from it. She was thinking, “Wow, I’m not imagining it,” when she saw piles of trash.

“Is it we don’t hear; don’t give a hoot, don’t pollute commercials anymore,” Carlton said. “Is it an increasing population thing? Is it increasing construction and who’s responsible for it?”

WINK News took her question to the Zac Burch from the Florida Dept. of Transportation.

“We see anything from paper and small debris all the way up to ladders, wheelbarrows, buckets, mattresses. We picked up hot tubs,” Burch said. “I mean, very big things that are not only ugly and unsightly but certainly they’re safety issues.”

Those are issues that add danger to drivers driving along I-75 that can cause chain-reaction crashes.

“Someone has to make a decision on ‘do you slam on your brakes,'” Burch said. “Do you try to swerve into another lane or onto the shoulder?”

In Lee County alone, FDOT picked up over 220,000 pounds of trash on I-75. When you see lots of trash or big pieces of debris, call Florida Highway Patrol. It can deploy road rangers to pick it up when it is a hazard or alert FDOT.

Burch said FDOT and its contractors pick up trash and debris along the interstate each month. Sometimes, they have to shut down lanes just to clear the trash. He told WINK News that he never wants law enforcement and its crews out on the interstate. That money and manpower could go towards projects benefiting Southwest Florida roads.

“They are the gateways to our communities,” Burch said. “Why would a tourist come to stay in Fort Myers if they can go north or south a little further and have a more beautiful community to stay in.”

Reporter:Anika Henanger
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