Route 78: America’s garbage highway.
As any good road trippers do, we had to hit America’s most famous highways and byways. We coasted down Route 101, sea breeze in our California-sunbleached hair (or scalp in Phil’s case, as his head was still bald at that point), cruised Route 66 through the parched Oklahoma desert, and took US Route 1 all the way down to Key West. What is left for the All American traveler? Nothing but I-78.
Pennsylvania is the top trash importer in the country, taking in more than 10 million tons of out-of-state trash annually. As such, there are a lot of trucks driving garbage from New York, New Jersey, and others west across PA, headed towards one of the state’s 51 landfills.
Elizabeth Royte’s book, Garbageland, presents some interesting data about America’s garbage highway. She discusses an 8-day truck inspection crackdown in 2001. Over these 8 days, more than 40,000 garbage trucks were inspected. 86% of them were found to be in violation of safety and environmental regulations for things like leaks or improver load coverage. Of these, 849 had such serious violations that they were ordered off the road.
Apparently the highway has to close pretty frequently due to accidents with the trash trucks. I did a 5 minute Google search to see if I could turn up any recent events. This past January a truck flipped, spreading its garbage contents across the highway and causing a several hour closure. In February a truck carrying paper waste had two tires blow out and ignited, closing the highway for several hours.
Despite these hazards, I-78 is a cash cow for Pennsylvania. In 2002 surcharges on this traffic brought $40 million into the state (from: Royte’s Garbageland). So, I used my best defensive driving skills and we made our way towards New York (thanks Uncle Chris, for teaching me how to drive!).