Motorists in south Tarrant County may have noticed a bit more trash than usual on Interstate 20 and other highways during the past few weeks – and a recent rash of windy storms isn’t the only culprit.
“There’s literally lumber, firewood, blown tires and car parts everywhere, along with the regular litter,” Heather Lowe, who lives near the Handley area of east Fort Worth, said in an email. She described the area of I-20 between Interstate 35W and the Loop 820/U.S. 287 split as “disgusting and dangerous,” and last week she called the city to complain.
It turns out that the problem lies not with the city, but a contractor hired by the Texas Department of Transportation to pick up old tires, wrappers and whatever else blows onto the roadside.
The company, Wilson Contracting, has defaulted on its contract, transportation department spokeswoman Jodi Hodges said.
“They haven’t performed the requirements of the contract, which includes sweeping and debris removal,” Hodges said. “We’ll issue an emergency contract this week. In the meantime, our crews are going out and picking up whatever they can.”
The Wichita Falls-based Wilson Contracting was to be paid $622,000 a year for debris removal along state highways in roughly the southern half of Tarrant County. A company official did not return a message left Monday to comment.
Other companies are responsible for highway cleanup elsewhere in North Texas. The job usually involves crews of about six people making the rounds on highways, in a caravan that can include a dump truck, a street sweeper and a chase vehicle with crash cushions and flashing orange lights to prevent rear-end collisions with oncoming traffic.
The crews pick up junk that could become a safety hazard – everything from household trash to lumber that has fallen out of a pickup to old bumpers and other stuff left on the roadsides after accidents and breakdowns.