Road crews depend on volunteers to keep Pennsylvania highways clean

MERCER, Pa. (WYTV) – A huge cleanup effort is underway along Pennsylvania roads and the Department of Transportation needs your help to get it done.

Glass bottles, plastic bags, and paper are just a few of the items volunteers pick up on the side of roads during Pennsylvania’s Great American Cleanup.

“We do a lot, like [Route] 62 and just a lot of the main roads,” said Suzanne Puhl, with PennDOT.

Last year, volunteers collected 34,580 pounds of trash in Mercer County and 6 million pounds across the entire state.

“They find a ton of tires because they’re hard to dispose of, so people just throw them out,” Puhl said.

The state saved $16 million last year from the services of volunteers during the Great American Cleanup.

The PennDOT project started March 1 and lasts through the end of May. But who cleans up the roads the rest of the year?

Unfortunately, litter hits the ground all year long — not just during those three months of the pickup. For the other nine months, it’s up to the people who adopt a highway to pick up that trash, and PennDOT is looking for a lot more people to do that.

PennDOT in Mercer County spends thousands of dollars every year cleaning up trash.

“When people volunteer and clean up our roadways, that’s less that we have to worry about and our crews and our manpower can go out and actually maintain the roads and fix potholes,” Puhl said.

In Mercer County, some of the busiest stretches of road need volunteers. Adoptions last two years and include at least two cleanup events annually.

The size of a highway adoption varies from interchange areas, traffic islands, and two-mile sections of roadway.

“When people volunteer, they are able to come to the office and get gloves and bags to assist them out there along with safety vests and signs,” Puhl said.

PennDOT workers will then come out to the site and pick up the filled trash bags.

To get involved with the Great American Cleanup or to learn how to adopt a highway in Pennsylvania, visit PennDOT’s website.