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HomeBreakingWaukesha County Won't Clean up Highway 16 Litter to Not Disturb Plants...

Waukesha County Won’t Clean up Highway 16 Litter to Not Disturb Plants & Animals, in Part


The Waukesha County Highway Department says litter on Highway 16 is not a priority for clean-up, in part because of concerns that equipment or people could disturb the animals and plants that “call the right of way home.”

They also blamed the state and won’t let volunteers clean the litter up because of safety reasons. And they don’t appear to have plans to clean it up any time soon.

That’s the response we got from Highway Operations Manager Hans Guderyon, when we asked about the unsightly litter spread all the way down Highway 16 from Capitol Drive into Oconomowoc. Plastic bags are tangled in trees; cardboard and other items are strewn throughout the center median and along each side of the highway. In addition, we saw two rotting deer carcasses along that stretch of highway. We’ve also received a number of complaints about the litter from readers.

We also wrote Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow seeking comment, and he said he could talk to us Monday, which we will follow up on. Furthermore, we received, from a reader, emails that Guderyon wrote her on the same topic. We include excerpts below.

Readers weighed in on our Facebook page: “It’s literally everywhere you drive in lake country,” one wrote. “It’s literally everywhere. Too bad there is not a pool of labor that would be able to work under the supervision of the Corrections dept, and clean it up,” wrote another.

“It’s horrible and I’ve contacted the highway department who said there are no funds in the budget to clean it,” another woman wrote. “I contacted one of the waste management companies— I have witnessed their little garbage trucks on the highway with litter blowing out the back— and they don’t want to take any responsibility. WCTC was denied access to the highway for a clean up project they wanted to do for safety reasons.”

Don’t expect Waukesha County to clean up the litter any time soon. Here’s why:

1. ‘Environmental Concern’

Guderyon said “vegetation and litter, this has been routinely identified as a budgetary item that is on the cusp for reduced funding and need to maintain the large areas around the Highway system.” He added: “This is also a concern environmental as many animals and plants call the right of way home and do not fare well to disturbance of equipment and people in and through them.”

2.  Not a Priority

Guderyon said that other things have higher priority in the budget than cleaning up litter, including “plowing snow, salting, filling potholes and repairing damaged or hazardous pavement, sweeping debris on walls, curbs and roadways a large portion of the budget.”

“Next would be the structural integrity of the roads and bridges to include preventative and inspective maintenance this would include shouldering, cleaning, and clearing drainage culverts and catch basins inspecting walls and bridges,” he added. “Then traffic safety, to include painted lines, signs, and signals cable and guardrails in and around the highways.”

3. Other Roads Come First

“Trash has been collected almost everyday for the last week and a half, the priority is the Interstate system I-94, I-43 and I-41,” said Guderyon.

To the reader, he added, “We have started the process of picking up large trash along what is called the clear zone(first 35 feet) from the fog line on I-94 and will continue along I-41 and I-43. It is my intention to work with WISDOT staff for a solution that is cost effective to get the trash cleaned up.”

4. There’s a Labor Shortage

As for Highway 16? “I can only state it will be a priority if labor is available,” he said.

“We are in the transition period from snow operation to summer construction and already have several projects that require a large labor force to conduct our portion of maintenance including pavement repair, shoulder repair, drainage clearing, pipe and inlet reconstruction.

5. The County Won’t Let Volunteers Help

We asked Guderyon whether it was true that Waukesha County Technical College offered to have volunteers clean up the litter but the county refused to let them.

“I can only state that volunteer efforts were altered to the ramp areas on HWY 16 as a safety precaution, the area from I-94 to CTH KF routinely have traffic accidents resulting from high speed, traffic, and a banked curve,” he said.

“Thus, the installation of the Cable guard between I-94 and CTH JJ and the continuation
later this fall into 2024 from HWY 190 through CTH KF. This area does not have an Adopt-a-Highway section associated for this purpose,” he added.

To the reader, he said, “As far as volunteering or adopt-a-HWY programs, certain HWY have different programs that can be awarded, however on State HWY with high speeds and large volumes of traffic it becomes very restrictive for safety purposes, both those picking trash and the driving public, as to when and who may be in the areas.  I know WCTC applied for a clean-up on HWY 16 from CTH KF to I-94, it was originally denied for safety concerns, recently I was informed they have reconsidered the request and have limited it to the ramp areas of CTH JJ with approval still pending.”

6. The County Blames the State, Gas Prices & Inflation

To the reader, Guderyon wrote: “The best advise is to reach out to local state representatives about funding and spending priorities.”

“WISDOT, as previously stated contracts our maintenance services. The State Legislature and has frozen State Highway Maintenance dollars for the past five years, it is not that
there is a reduction in funding per say; just that labor, equipment, fuel, inflation have sharply increased in the last three years especially. Hence a dollar does not go as far as it once did,” Guderyon said.

According to Guderyon, Waukesha County “is contracted to provide maintenance of the roads and right of ways by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. County management works with WISDOT staff to conduct and coordinate work based on needs. This is prioritized and characterized as being from the center line of the road out.”

To the reader, he said, “Waukesha County Highway operations is contracted by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to provide maintenance on the state highway system. Over the last five years funding decision have been made that require us to cut back on certain areas of performed maintenance on the system. We work closely with WISDOT staff and provide as much feedback, positive and negative as possible to persuade them for more funding so that we can provide better services to our residents.”

7. The County Blames the Transfer Station

To the reader, Guderyon wrote, “In addition, you are spot on with your observation, the transfer station in the Hartland industrial park is a large contributor to the problem especially on HWY 16. We have recently discussed the contractually obligations and related permitted process for these companies for the collection of consumer garbage and the responsibility to transfer it safely along County and State Highways.”

Jessica McBride
Jessica's opinions on this website and all WRN and personal social media pages, including Facebook and X, represent her own opinions and not those of the institution where she works. Jessica McBride, a Wisconsin Right Now contributor, is a national award-winning journalist and journalism educator with more than 25 years in journalism. Jessica McBride’s journalism career started at the Waukesha Freeman newspaper in 1993, covering City Hall. She was an investigative, crime, and general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a decade. Since 2004, she has taught journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her work has appeared in many news outlets, including (where she is a contributor reaching millions of readers per month),, WTMJ, WISN, WUWM,,, Milwaukee Magazine, Nightline, El Conquistador Latino Newspaper, Japanese and German television, Channel 58, Reader’s Digest, Twist (magazine), Wisconsin Public Radio, BBC, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, and others. 

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