A state initiative aimed at cleaning up California streets and freeways is now underway.
The program is called "Clean California," and aims to spend $1.5 billion statewide over the next three years to clean up the trash that's plagued the region for decades and has only gotten worse during the pandemic.
"This initiative is going to be litter abatement on steroids," said Caltrans District 8 spokesperson Terri Kasinga. "Our crews are going to be able to be out here more often."
Kasinga said not only did the pandemic mean more people eating by way of fast food drive-thrus, with much of the resulting trash ending up along roads and at park-and-rides, but they also lost a good deal of their workforce.
"Caltrans did have to step it up during COVID to clean our highways because we lost our work-release program due to the fact that the courts were unable to allow these work-release people to come work with us, who were picking up probably 80% of our trash, seven days a week," said Kasinga.
The number of homeless encampments skyrocketing across the state isn't helping either. But state officials say the Clean California initiative is estimated to create 15,000 jobs over the next three years, including state jobs and opportunities for the homeless, at-risk youth, and people re-entering society following incarceration.
Officials are also hoping to create hundreds of pieces of art along roadways with the cooperation of local artists and students.
"We want to change the way people think," said Kasinga. "We want to beautify their communities so they stay engaged and stay onboard with keeping it beautiful."
The project aims to spend more than $400 million for litter abatement, and more than $850 million for state and local beautification projects.