ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A new report from the City of Albuquerque Inspector General sheds some light on how much is spent a year to clean up areas around interstate overpasses and state Department of Transportation property. Last fiscal year, Albuquerque’s Department of Solid Waste spent almost $900,000 to clean up underneath overpasses and along state-owned property.
The report shows NMDOT reimbursed the city $500,000 for the cleanup, but even with cleanups, people who live and work nearby still raise concerns.
“It’s a big safety concern, not just for us, but the entire general public around the area,” said Jonas Chavarria.
Neighbors and businesses said they have issues with a homeless camp that popped up underneath First Street and Indian School since the closure of Coronado Park last August.
“The trash accumulates daily from the food that is brought. They don’t have trash receptacles. They don’t have houses like they once did. I believe that would help out a lot if, maybe, they had a dumpster,” said Tommy Burks, who works near the encampment.
An Albuquerque Solid Waste Department spokesperson said the city has an agreement with NMDOT for the clean-up of on-ramps and off-ramps, the exterior of the freeway, and some of the underpasses and areas next to the highways.
“They come early in the morning and rouse them, make them move their camps, pick up their trash. Pretty much, keep them active. It seems like there is quite a bit of money they use for that,” added Burks.
The city said clean-up crews are sent out to clean encampments around the highways on a daily basis that’s based on necessity.
Over the last eight years, while NMDOT has been paying a flat rate of $300,000 for clean-up around the highways, the city has been covering more than half the bill. That total is increasing more and more each year.
The city said this is all due to an increase of encampments around the highways and one of the city’s largest encampments since the closure of Coronado Park is no different.
“Ever since the closure of Coronado Park, it has been much more focused over here, and I feel like they have tested the waters in every spot enough that this is the spot that they feel like they can have the most leverage for their own means of lifestyle,” Chavarria said.
The Solid Waste Department said they’ve also added more people to their clean-up crews to help address the increase in encampments around highways.
The Office of the Inspector General recommends the city monitor their costs and reconsider renegotiating its agreement with NMDOT based on yearly costs.
In the last eight fiscal years, the city and state have spent more than $6.5 million to clean up the underpasses and state property in Albuquerque.