NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Here’s something that could make your drive more pleasant. The state is quadrupling its budget to clean up its highways. In the special session that just wrapped up, lawmakers allocated $10 million to the Clean-up New Mexico Roadway Beautification Program. 

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The state could use it. “With regards to the roads and the highways recently I noticed a lot more trash on the exit ramp going up to Louisiana,” says Albuquerque resident Marc Soller. 

The New Mexico Department of Transportation knows there’s a growing litter problem. Louise Candelaria adds, “The city needs cleaning up right now.”

Now the DOT is getting 10 million dollars in pandemic relief money to help clean it up. The department’s normal budget for cleanup is a little more than 3 million.

Marisa Maez, the Director of Communication for NMDOT says, “We have hired another company. We have some contracts out there with a couple of other companies so that their whole purpose is to pick up litter, that’s it.” Those workers will start next month. 

Like many departments the DOT was short staffed during the pandemic. their crews cleaned up where they could — but had other priorities. “Our own staff, our guys that are out there that do our maintenance patrol, their primary focus is on maintaining the integrity of our roads,” explains Maez. 

 A shortage of corrections officers means inmate cleanup crews have been stuck behind bars. Maez shares, “We had a contract with the corrections department and as you know, it’s been difficult to hire everywhere so hiring correctional officers has also been a real problem.”

The DOT says it’s not looking to spend this money on educational campaigns or ads. They want to use this money strictly for cleanup efforts. The Department of Transportation has until 2025 to spend the 10 million dollars.