Austin Answered: Who picks up debris from the road?

Oct 13, 2017
  • By Anusha Lalani
  • American-Statesman Staff
Austin city work crews clear away debris on North Lamar Boulevard after heavy rains in this Aug. 17, 2016, file photo. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Beverly Clark was driving home a couple of months ago when she ran into some traffic on an Austin road caused by a fender bender, she said. After the wreck was cleared and police reopened the lane, she drove through pieces of broken glass, which made her wonder: When you’re driving and you come across some debris, who is responsible for picking it up?

“I didn’t know if you could call anybody from the city to clean that up or what,” Clark said. “Because generally nobody is going have something in their car to clean that stuff up.”

Austin Answered, our occasional series in which the American-Statesman answers your questions about the community, found out that the best thing Clark could do to get help with debris on the street is to call Austin’s 311 service, which takes requests for nonemergency city services.

“The community can call Austin 311 to report debris or items on a city street or in the right of way,” said Austin 311 spokesman Paul Bestgen. “If the debris is on a state or county road, we can always help connect callers to the appropriate agency.”

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In the year starting on Oct. 11, 2016, and ending last Wednesday, Austin 311 processed 3,293 debris requests, said Bestgen, which were then get sent to Street and Bridge Operations, a division of the city’s Public Works Department that also handles road maintenance and tree trimming. Debris mentioned in the reports can be a variety of things including garbage, traffic cones and tires.

“Requests related to debris ultimately gets routed to Street and Bridge Operations electronically,” said David Magaña, managing engineer for Street and Bridge Operations. “We have staff that goes and investigates the request, and if it’s something that can be handled right then and there by the person investigating the request, they’ll do that. Otherwise, they’ll schedule a request to complete whatever needs to be done after it’s been investigated.”

However, Bestgen said the number you should call to report debris can depend on the type of debris.

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“If there is something on the road, such as a mattress, causing an immediate traffic hazard, residents should call 911,” Bestgen said. “If someone calls 311, and the issue is an emergency, we can transfer the caller to 911.”

Clark said she never thought of calling 311 to report debris, a service she has used in the past to report her streetlights going out.

“That’s a perfect solution,” Clark said. “I have very good luck with reporting things to 311.”

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