LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — At any given time on most major freeways in the Los Angeles area, one can typically look out the window on either side of their vehicle, and behold the scattered, unsightly image of debris across the lanes.

Eventually accompanied with this troubling amount of debris is another sight, which can, at times, frustrate motorists even further — the CalTrans sweeper trains.

The bulky, slow-moving sweeper trains have built a reputation as a traffic nuisance among many Southern California motorists, often being associated with lane disruptions, and eventually, decreased traffic flow.

However, as CBS2’s Stephanie Simmons notes, the benefits of the sweeper trains greatly outweigh the hindrances, even though many sweeps take place during busy commuting hours.

CalTrans sweeper trains are scheduled to perform routine freeway cleanups once a month, in order to collect trash that some commuters toss out their windows and onto the freeway lanes, as well as any debris from accidents.

Despite this light, one-day-per-month schedule, the more trash tossed onto the freeways, along with the more accidents that may occur, results in sweepers that are needed to clear freeways more frequently.

“They have to understand that, yes, it is inconveniencing them, but we have to be there to remove the tons and tons of trash that we have to remove from LA freeways,” Patrick Chandler of CalTrans said.

Chandler went on to explain that, while CalTrans tries to minimize the inconvenience using what’s called a “counter-flow”, in which crews try to work on the less-busy side of the freeway at any given time, daytime hours are a necessity, as it pertains to the safety of both workers and motorists.

“At night, we’ve had a high number of accidents,” Chandler said. “These vehicles have amber lights going, we have the flares going, they’re huge, wide, orange vehicles, but unfortunately either people are leaving the parties, the clubs, or are under the influence, and they’ve crashed into, or hit, these vehicles or had some close calls. So we’ve had to cut back on the number of hours that they’re out there.”

Even with limited hours, based around mutual increased safety, the job of the CalTrans sweeper workers is considered to be one of high risks. The worker must stop and exit their vehicle, and will spend time either on the center median or on the shoulder, working to clear up trash items that, at times, prove to be difficult to remove.

“The crowbars, the book shelves, the TVs, the computer monitors, toilets even, are ending up on the freeways,” Chandler said.

While any increase in trash or debris on the freeways will result in more frequent sweeps, CalTrans suggests that a large part of the inconvenience, including increased traffic, can be helped by the very motorists impacted by the sweeps.

“Have a trash can in your car, or a bag or something, but if you throw (trash) away in your car, we can reduce the amount of trash you find on LA freeways.”


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