Mark my words, Fresno’s trash-littered freeways will get cleaned up.

But, to what degree they are restored in a manner that reflects well on our city depends, in part, on the state Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Listen to this article:


Portrait of GV Wire News Director Bill McEwen

Bill McEwen


That’s what I learned Monday morning at a 50-minute public meeting at Fresno City Hall that brought together representatives of the agencies responsible for cleaning our local highways.

It was the second public meeting on freeway trash. A third is expected in six weeks.

More Clean-up Crews Coming Soon

The first bit of good news comes via Caltrans, the folks in charge of your Measure C transportation sales tax dollars, and the city of Fresno.

Caltrans is putting up $200,000 to scrub the Freeway 41, 99, 168 and 180 corridors every 30 days, with Measure C and the city of Fresno kicking in $100,000 each. Four companies have submitted bids and one will be selected sometime in October. Crews are expected to start in mid-December, Fresno Public Works Director Scott Mozier said.

More good news: There is a commitment by the three parties to fund the crews for a second year. Credit former Fresno councilman turned supervisor Steve Brandau for pushing for the Measure C money. And, Caltrans is making headway on restoring landscaping destroyed by the drought and fires.

Now, a brief history lesson.

Why do many of our freeway embankments look like trash heaps?

Homeless encampments are responsible for much of the mess. Some homeless people camped high on the embankments simply accumulate their personal garbage there. Then it’s blown by the wind or rolls down toward the roadway. Other homeless people raid Dumpsters for bags of trash and bring the bags to the encampments. Then they sort through the bags seeking items of value. Everything deemed worthless is left to blow or roll.

Can a Succesful Program Be Restored?

In addition, crews comprised of low-level adult offenders no longer clean up behind the homeless. At one time, 10 to 15 people were working Fresno County highways Monday through Friday and up to 20 on weekends, said Fresno County Chief Probation Officer Kirk Haynes.

Headshot of Kirk Haynes

“That was a good program. Given a choice between five days of work vs. five days in jail, most people prefer to do the work.” — Fresno County Probation Chief Kirk Haynes

“That was a good program,” Haynes said. “Given a choice between five days of work vs. five days in jail, most people prefer to do the work.”

The reason they’re not out there tidying up now: The county no longer wanted to bear the cost for liability insurance.

Now at the behest of Fresno City Council members Garry Bredefeld, Paul Caprioglio, and Miguel Arias, the city will try to revive the program by paying for the insurance — possibly in partnership with Caltrans.

“This is doable,” Bredefeld said.

A Failing Grade for Highway Cleanliness

For those wondering just how bad the litter/trash/debris situation is, Caltrans officials said that on a scale of 1 to 100, Fresno highways rate a 50 for cleanliness.

That’s an “F” in anyone’s book.

As to the why of this ugly situation, look north to Sacramento. Newsom — and Jerry Brown before him — have squeezed Caltrans highway maintenance budget like a toothpaste tube. Right now, it’s rolled up to the top and down to the last couple of drops.

Where our local Caltrans office once received $40 million a year for highway maintenance, this year’s budget delivered $12 million. What kind of sense does that make with Newsom and the Democratic-dominated Legislature bragging about California’s No. 5 global economy, a record budget, and record reserves?

Granted, some politicians rightfully are reluctant to fully fund Caltrans until the scandal-plagued agency cleans up its act. But citizens wanting clean and green roadways shouldn’t be penalized for past Caltrans sins.

Next Measure C Should Include More Highway Clean-up Funds

Also, here in Fresno County, we can do a better job of allocating Measure C dollars so that the highways and roads are built and kept litter-free.

Looking ahead to the mid-2020s when the push to renew Measure C will begin in earnest, Arias said, “We need to have an honest conversation about how Measure C is used.”

Finally, it was refreshing to see our elected representatives working collaboratively, calmly, and efficiently. Even with TV cameras focused on them, there was no grandstanding.

Good job, all around.

5 Responses

  1. Nancy Flynn

    This is a reflection of the City of Fresno’s absolute neglect to provide low barrier, emergency housing that they were advised to provide in 2014 (with confirmation by the Grand Jury) this failure to provide emergency shelter has exacerbated the homeless issue. If the homeless had been provided with low barrier, emergency housing trash along the freeways would not be an issue for Cal Trans.This is an issue that lands squarely on the City of Fresno’s failure. Why doesn’t GV Wire explain the economics of this issue to the public? The cost of leaving a single homeless person unsheltered on the street per year is $41,000. Blaming trans on the homeless who are being herded toward ‘help’ that does not exist in enough abundance to meet the needs of the number of homeless living on our streets is less than honorable. Do your homework GV Wire. Educate the public regarding the 10 million dollars of our tax money being used by the police to herd the homeless.

    • Bill Thacker

      Nancy why must you constantly 24/7 parrot the same remarks that this situation is the city’s fault (taxpayers) Most Fresno taxpayers are tired of taxes going up and going to homeless meth addicts who have increased our crime, trashed up our streets and walk aimlessly from street to street forging yet REFUSING any of the empty beds at Poverello House and Fresno Rescue Mission.
      We cannot keep doing for these zombies when their own families have given up on them. They are not ready to change, until then we have our education, streets, safety and other important things to think about then some meth’d out crazy lunatic with jello for brains that was dumped in Fresno by some bay area town. Here is a suggestion for you, take these people into YOUR home and KEEP YOUR HANDS off my tax dollars for your precious druggies. Your math doesn’t work or make sense, you don’t make sense you just bark and people and no one wants to listen to you . Plenty of help exists, you don’t know what you are talking about. Get a life or take in the druggies into your home.
      Sooner or later they will get a lethyl dose of fentanyl that is just the true facts of life as a Meth zombie roaming from here to there, leaving needles, feces, trash, and bringing rats with them. They don’t care about our homes or communities why in the HELL should we care for them. Our schools need more funding they are falling behind.

      • Nancy Flynn

        The taxpayers are not at fault but the City of Fresno is because our politicians have failed miserably to provide LOW BARRIER shelter and services. What is it about that you are unable to understand? Your attitude is shared by many in our community and is the result of myth and misinformation. Unfortunate.
        There but for the Grace of God go all of us….

    • Russell

      One way bus trips of all homeless who refuse services, straight up the 99 to Sacramento, would be a great use of public funds.


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