Since You Asked

I've been driving Interstate-5 for 30 years now and continue to be appalled at the trash along the Siskiyou Summit where the "big rigs" pull off to test their brakes, etc. There are no trash cans available. Is there no way to clean up this area and keep it clean? Are the truckers such slobs that they just don't care about the mess they make? Honestly, I think it is an embarrassment to our community when such an eyesore greats travelers.

— JR, Medford

Well, JR, you're not the first to notice this problem. Gary Leaming, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, shared a letter ODOT received detailing some of the same concerns — and more. These travelers noticed the trash and to their great dismay also saw a trucker who decided to eliminate his personal "biological waste" (otherwise known as going No. 2) on the side of the road.

Jerry Marmon, ODOT District 8 manager, replied to that letter, noting that the trash and "repulsive and unsanitary behavior" has been a chronic problem.

He also wrote: "In the past, we have taken steps to help clean up the litter at the summit including placement of refuse containers on both sides of the pass. This resulted in quickly overloaded containers with household garbage, including discarded furniture. It was severely abused, and we discontinued it."

Debris in the area is picked twice a month in the summer by crews, with Marmon noting, "As you can imagine, we take special precautions for the litter crews at the summit due to the biological 'hazards' present."

Marmon also said cleanup in the winter is more difficult because of snow and the amount of winter maintenance work the crews must perform.

He said solutions have been elusive, but that ODOT may launch an educational campaign targeting truckers and also planned to ask the Oregon State Police to step up enforcement.

In addition, Marmon said, ODOT was exploring the feasibility of installing video cameras that could be monitored at ODOT's Traffic Operations Center and posted on its online site, TripCheck. Signs would be placed to warn truckers that the area is under video surveillance.

As to whether truckers are just slobs and don't care about the mess they make, that's hard to say. But based on that one roadside report, there's at least one guy who definitely needs to touch up on his Miss Manners etiquette.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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