Tennessee Study Charts Six Year Drop in Roadway Litter

A study funded by the Tennessee Department of Transportation and Keep Tennessee Beautiful found that, over the last six years, there’s been a 12 percent drop in litter on state roadways.

[Above photo by Tennessee DOT]

The 2022 Tennessee Statewide Litter Study – conducted by engineering firm Burns & McDonnell as a “follow-up “ to similar litter studies in 2016 and 2006 – helps identify how litter has changed over time, the relationship between litter volume and roadside characteristics, and assess the impact of nearby infrastructure and socioeconomic factors.

The study’s methodology included the random selection of 120 roadway locations split equitably among the following four roadway classifications in both urban and rural areas of Tennessee: Interstate, U.S. highway, state highway, and local roads.

The “sampling plan” used by Burns & McDonnell for this study included the investigation of designated litter “hot spots” in the cities of Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, as well as “at-risk” and “distressed locations” along other roadways statewide.

“The 2022 study is one of several research products that helps [us] evaluate progress on litter abatement and make the most effective use of future litter prevention and cleanup resources,” explained Denise Baker, Tennessee DOT transportation supervisor, in a statement.

“Overall, while encouraging that there has been a 12 percent reduction of litter on Tennessee roadways, there are still more than 88 million pieces of litter on public roads at any given time,” Baker said.

Some of the key findings from Tennessee’s 2022 litter study include:

  • There are roughly 88.5 million pieces of litter on Tennessee roadsides at any given time, down from 100 million in 2016.
  • U.S. highways had the lowest amount of litter-per-mile, at 7,386 items of litter per mile.
  • Local roads – which account for the most road miles (82,538 miles) in Tennessee – in aggregate had the highest percentage (80 percent) of total litter items by roadway type.
  • Most of the litter on Tennessee roadways is smaller than four inches. An estimated 679.7 million pieces, or 88 percent, items of litter were four inches or smaller in size. However, there is still a significant quantity (88.5 million pieces or 12 percent) of larger, and often more visible, litter on Tennessee roadways.
  • Plastic and paper items compose most litter items, while the number of cigarette butts observed per site decreased for interstate and U.S. highway roadway classifications in 2022 versus the 2016 study.
  • Motorists were determined to be the leading sources of litter on Tennessee roadways.

Other state departments of transportation have also conducted or participated in similar roadway litter studies.

For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is playing a key role in executing the state’s first ever ‘Litter Action Plan’ unveiled in November 2021; developed after a comprehensive study of roadway litter issues across Pennsylvania.

Subsequently, a group of employees from PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) received a Governor’s Awards for Excellence in recognition of their efforts to develop that Litter Action Plan.

PennDOT said it spends roughly $14 million each year on litter cleanup statewide, while DEP has funded “Pick Up Pennsylvania” community litter cleanups and illegal dump site cleanups for over two decades – supporting volunteers in removing many tons of trash from the land and waters.

The persistence of littering is what prompted PennDOT and DEP to collaborate with Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful to conduct the first comprehensive state study to inform development of the Litter Action Plan, with a focus on changing littering behavior.

University Unveils Distracted Pedestrian Prevention App

Researchers at the University of Alabama Birmingham recently unveiled a new smartphone-based application called “StreetBit” that uses Bluetooth beacon technology to prevent pedestrians from becoming distracted while navigating road crossings.

[Above photo by the UAB]

The school said the StreetBit app sends auditory and visual warnings to a distracted pedestrian’s smartphone as they approach a street corner where Bluetooth beacons are installed.

new study co-written by five UAB researchers shows that the application is not only helpful, but also cost-effective by providing a template of how existing data sources can be leveraged to do cost-benefit analyses for any interventions designed to enhance pedestrian safety.

“We hope the template developed in this study can facilitate large-scale implementation of any intervention designed to prevent pedestrian fatalities and injuries by providing policymakers with information on the net benefits of the intervention,” said Jillur Rahim, first author of the study and statistician II in the UAB School of Public Health, in a statement.

“The findings can lead to significant cost savings for the states and, most importantly, save pedestrian lives by facilitating large-scale adoption of such programs,” Rahim added.

UAB said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that more than 7,000 pedestrians were killed in the United States because of crashes involving motor vehicles in 2020, and that part of this issue can be attributed to excessive smartphone-related distractions.

For its study, UAB researchers analyzed pedestrian injury and death rates, expected costs per injury, and prevalence of distracted walking and estimated that StreetBit, or similar interventions, can potentially save between $18 million and $29 million annually in Alabama alone.

Even under the most conservative scenario, StreetBit could yield an estimated net annual benefit of $11.8 million for the state, the researchers said.

The UAB claimed its analysis – entitled ‘Cost–benefit analysis of a distracted pedestrian intervention’ and published in Injury Prevention – is the first U.S.-based study to demonstrate how existing data can be leveraged to predict the net monetary benefits of distracted pedestrian intervention programs.

Environmental News Highlights – May 17, 2023


America’s aging flood control infrastructure is failing – federal funding is coming, but too often new construction relies on old data – The Conversation


EPA Developing $4B Clean Port Infrastructure Grant Programs – AASHTO Journal

Congestion Pricing in Manhattan Clears Federal Hurdle – Route Fifty

Norfolk Southern to set up home value reimbursement fund after Ohio derailment – Reuters

Winter Has No Chance Against WYDOT’s Newest Rig That Chews Through 5,000 Tons Of Snow An Hour – Cowboy State Daily

Here’s how the Port of Savannah is preparing to withstand the upcoming hurricane season – WJCL-TV

How a new digital tool could help cities meet key sustainability and mobility goals – World Economic Forum


Providing a 5-Minute Pickup Priority for Ridehail Users Agreeing to Pool: Potential Impacts on Curtailing Bus Delay and Enhancing Equity – FHWA Office of Operations

Colombia’s Women-Led Electric Bus Fleet Is Reshaping Bogotá’s Public Transit – CityLab

Racial and ethnic disparities in traffic deaths revealed in NHTSA report – Smart Cities Dive

Los Angeles Metro’s Equity Platform spurs new equity information data hub, encouraging more Angelenos to participate in Metro’s decision-making processLos Angeles MTA (blog)


This Lawsuit Could Change How the Forest Service Fights Wildfires – The Atlantic

New Hampshire, Vermont Put Measures In Place To Protect Bats At Bridge Worksite – Brattleboro Reformer

What’s Happening to the Trees in New Orleans? – CityLab

SFO is now monitoring airplane wastewater – San Francisco Examiner

FDOT plans state’s first wildlife crossing overpass across I-4 in Polk County – WFTS-TV

Snow fills Colorado mountains. Crews are throwing explosives at it. – USA Today


Kansas DOT Issues Revised Active Transportation Plan – AASHTO Journal

Supporters Want E-Bikes Allowed on R.I.’s Bicycle Paths – ecoRI

Key concepts to consider when promoting active transportation – The Lancet

Connecticut DOT campaign promotes pedestrian safety during ‘Older Americans Month’ – News 12 Connecticut

Progress Continues On Virginia Capital Trail Extension – Peninsula Chronicle

Pedestrian bridge linking Crystal City and Reagan National Airport set to move forward – WTOP Radio

RTC of Washoe County, NV Asking For Feedback On Active Transportation Plan – KTVN-TV

CDOT Announces Free “Learn to Ride” Bike Riding Classes for Adults and Children in 2023 – City of Chicago (media release)


Air Quality in Transit Buses – TCRP

In Pursuit of Equity: Environmental Justice on Tribal Lands – TRB News

Achieving Highway Runoff Volume and Pollutant Reduction Using Vegetated Compost Blankets: A Guide – NCHRP

Conference on the Marine Transportation System Innovative Science and Technologies Toward Greater Sustainability – TRB

TRB Webinar: Aggregate Sustainability – Production – TRB

A qualitative study of active travel amongst commuters and older adults living in English market towns – BMC Public Health


White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council; Notification of Public Meeting – EPA (Notice)

Release of Volume 3 of the Integrated Review Plan in the Review of the Lead National Ambient Air Quality Standards – EPA (Notice of availability)

2023 Annual Joint Meeting of the Ozone Transport Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Northeast Visibility Union EPA (Notice; public meeting)

Inland Waterways Users Board; Request for Nominations – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Notice of request for nominations)