Start the 90-day countdown to cleaner highways, says Fortunato

Encourages cities to start submitting estimates for reimbursement

Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Phil Fortunato to clean up Washington’s littered highways was signed into law today. Senate Bill 5040, known as the “Welcome to Washington Act,” goes into effect in 90 days. The bipartisan measure seeks to improve litter control on state highways.

“As an environmental compliance guy, the litter on state roadways is infuriating and so was the bureaucracy preventing government from doing anything about it,” Fortunato exclaimed. “I’m glad this small but meaningful policy is going to make a visible difference for our residents and visitors to our beautiful state.”

The cleanup utilizes the little-known litter tax that exists on products considered proximate to the litter problem, such a beer cans, household paper products and glass containers. Fortunato thought of the proposal while traveling for work, noting that when entering Washington from Oregon, travelers see a big “Welcome to Washington” sign and are greeted with trash on the side of the highway.

Jokingly, Fortunato has said, “You can furnish a house with what you find.”

The increased coordination under the proposal means the agencies will step up anti-litter public-awareness campaigns and emphasize enforcement against litterbugs by the State Patrol.  In addition, the measure will permit interagency work during road work or maintenance to conduct debris pickups. The law also allows local jurisdictions to apply for reimbursement related to litter control activities on state highway ramps.

“I’m encouraging local jurisdictions to submit estimates to the state Department of Ecology for the cost of cleaning up off-ramps to their cities,” added Fortunato. “I think there is still a couch on the way to Auburn that I might have to put on offer-up while waiting for this law to take effect.”