FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --It's hot and dirty work, but Caltrans said knocking down the weeds and cleaning up the sides of the roadways in the Fresno area is underway. Work started on Highway 41.
"Right now we have litter pickup going on on the north end, on the south end we have a lot of landscaping, brush removal, mowing the grass that's taking place and that's going to continue until we get 41 up to an acceptable level," said Cory Burkarth, Caltrans spokesman.
The work comes after a series of fires over the past three weeks that appear to have been deliberately set along highway 41, 168, 180, and Highway 99. The cleanup comes after protests by citizens and local elected leaders.
"It seems like they are responding in the short term, which I think is great okay. But at the same time I'm still somewhat critical that they allowed the problem to get this out of hand. I mean these weeds are eight feet tall and they are all over," said Steve Brandau, Fresno City Council Member.
Caltrans acknowledges it fell behind on landscaping maintenance because of other major expenses. The agency said it has spent $30-million in the past three years replacing stolen copper wiring along Fresno's freeways and replacing irrigation equipment damaged by homeless campers. Brandau said he understands.
Clovis Mayor Nathan Magsig said local governments, businesses and citizens could also get involved.
"It is Caltrans ultimate responsibility, but looking at limited funds that are out there and the challenges Caltrans is facing I see great opportunities where private businesses and possibly some of the local government entities can partner up with Caltrans, come up with solutions to deal with some of these areas."
Cal Trans said changes should be apparent over the next month, but one big problem, trash thrown out of car windows, and garbage blowing out of the back of trucks requires the public to be more responsible. Because cleaning up after litter bugs is expensive.
While many complain other parts of the state don't look this bad, Caltrans maintains funding for this district is in line with other areas. The problems with wire theft, homeless camps on the highway, and litter are worse here, and divert money from improving the landscaping.
They also said participation in the adopt a highway program, where business and community groups can volunteer to maintain a stretch of roadway, are low here.