Clear California initiative would direct $1.5 billion towards cleansing roadways, schooling marketing campaign – Orange County Register
Caltrans officials see a $ 1.5 billion beautification initiative proposed by Governor Gavin Newsom as the comprehensive approach needed to clean long-disrupted state highways but also convince Californians to leave the streets litter-free keeping is a joint effort.
The Clean California Initiative would provide money for trash removal, infrastructure improvements, educational programs, and arts projects across the state. As part of the governor’s California comeback plan, it proposes a three-year effort to beautify the streets by leveraging community partnerships and creating thousands of jobs, officials said.
“I think this is the first time in the history of the state, the entire history of the state, that we have fully embraced this challenge,” said Toks Omishakin, director of Caltrans, of the proposal, which was approved before July 1st of the legislature.
Robert Walker with Caltrans collects rubbish along Highway 57 south of Highway 91 in Anaheim on Wednesday morning June 23, 2021. The state clean-up initiative, Clean California, would allocate millions across the state to cleaning up trash. Education programs, infrastructure improvements and art projects. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register / SCNG)
Scott McLeod (left) and Robert Walker with Caltrans are collecting a heap of millions of dollars across the state for garbage disposal, education programs, infrastructure improvements and art projects at the intersection of Highways 57 and 91 in Anaheim on Wednesday morning, June 23, 2021. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register / SCNG)
The educational aspect of Clean California would set it apart from the cleanup work done over the past few years, which had no lasting impact, Omishkin said. The goal is to teach Californians the importance of keeping streets clear of debris, but also “to revive pride in public space,” he said.
And a third of the proposed $ 1.5 billion would go to cities, counties, tribal governments and other local transportation companies, said Omishakin, who “know a little more locally, on their highways, and sometimes on the state highway. You know where these needs are. “
“I think this is the first time it’s more holistic than just saying, ‘Hey, go out there and get a crew out and pick up the trash on the freeway.'”
The proposed funding would come as some Caltrans counties are seeing a notable increase in the amount of litter on the highways for which they are responsible.
In Orange County, the agency estimates maintenance teams have collected around 30% more litter on the streets so far this year compared to 2020, said Bobi Hettick, assistant director of maintenance and operations for Caltrans District 12, which covers the county. Compared to 2019, which Hettick regards as the “baseline” for the garbage collected, the crews have already collected more than 5,000 additional cubic meters of garbage in the first six months of 2021.
“We have only seen one hurricane of trash in the past two years,” said Hettick. “The increase was substantial.”
Much of it comes from uncovered loads on the back of trucks, she said, describing trucks flying across the freeway without realizing the unsecured garbage is falling out. Graffiti has also increased, along with illegal dumping, she said.
That year, Orange County’s Caltrans spent about $ 7.06 million of its $ 45 million maintenance budget, about 16%, on trash removal, District 12 spokeswoman Darcy Birden said in an e- Mail. Two years ago, the agency only spent 7%, she said.
“Despite Caltrans’ efforts to meet the waste disposal needs, additional resources are required,” said Birden.
While the garbage has increased, the partnerships the district previously used to get help cleaning its streets disappeared as the pandemic closed, leaving the increased amount of waste to be picked up for a smaller number of workers, Hettick said. The agency has worked with organizations in the past and has received cleanup help through referrals from courts that require community service, she said.
“It was impossible to keep up because the other programs that had helped us stopped and the volume just got so much higher,” said Hettick, seeing no end of the mountain of rubbish in sight.
With the Clean California funding, the district plans to hire two dedicated trash teams of around eight to ten people along with other roles to support the initiative, she said.
The district was given approval to hire “with the promise that Clean California would support these positions,” Hettick said. District 12 job fairs are scheduled for July 8th and 9th at the Ehlers Event Center in Buena Park and the Downtown Anaheim Community Center, respectively.
Eric Carpenter, spokesman for the Orange County Transportation Authority, said while an amount the agency could get through the proposal has not yet been determined, OCTA leaders believe that “we could benefit from funding to clean up transit stations in the whole county ”.
Currently, the agency must use the money raised through Measure M’s half-cent sales tax to fund projects that help remove “transportation-related debris and pollution” before they get into the water, said Carpenter.
“Protecting the environment while we keep Orange County moving is one of the primary goals of OCTA,” he said. “And we appreciate the state’s partnership in protecting what makes our district such a special place to live.”
Across the state, Caltrans estimates that Clean California will result in an additional 21,000 tons of trash – approximately 1.2 million cubic meters – being removed from roads over three years. In 2020, Caltrans collected 267,000 cubic yards, the agency said.
In the Los Angeles and Ventura counties, Caltrans is looking for between 100 and 150 entry-level employees to help with waste collection, Godson Okereke, assistant director of maintenance for District 7, said through a spokesman. The district is hosting a job fair at a Bridge Home shelter near USC on June 29.
In District 8, which includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties, funds would go far through Clean California, said district spokesman David Matza, to reach rural and remote areas near Arizona and Nevada that are often overlooked. The borough, which spans approximately 28,650 square miles, is the largest among the agency’s 12, and crews sometimes struggle to keep things going, he said.
The district plans to hire nearly 30 workers with Clean California money. The initiative, he said, “will allow us to reach these underserved areas and clean up some of the debris and revitalize not only the trash and rubble, but those gates to California as well.”
Matza said the ability to fund art and beautification projects “creates a community identity” for cities and counties.
“Finding the means to actually carry out these types of beautification projects has always been a challenge,” he said. “But with Clean California we should be able to expand these efforts because cities and counties often want to do that too.”
A shared mindset “that we must all work together to keep our streets clean” would be a key component in maintaining project objectives beyond the three-year budget allocation, he said.
“We can always go out and clean up, but if the public and our partners don’t join in too,” he said, “it’s hard to keep up the progress we’ve made.”