The City's street cleaning program removes dirt and debris from City streets to provide a healthy, safe, and attractive environment for Portland residents and visitors. Regular removal of leaves and debris by members of the public as well as City crews is necessary to prevent stormwater drains from clogging, which can result in street flooding. Street cleaning protects water quality and minimizes the burden on the sewer system from surface debris.
The street cleaning program sweeps over 4,000 miles of curbed streets within the City of Portland, including residential streets and major arterial streets.
Due to declining revenue and funding cuts, all curbed residential streets get swept only 1-2 times per year. All major arterials get swept 6-8 times per year. In addition to city street cleaning, residents play an important role in keeping streets clean and safe. We ask the public to clear leaves from storm drains near their property, especially during autumn.
If a storm drain is clogged, the public is welcome to call us at PBOT's 24/7 dispatch center: 503-823-1700 and we will send a crew to clear clogged drains.
The street cleaning program also cleans subways and stairways and provides emergency response in winter storms. Street cleaning activities in the Central Business District include a special treatment process for the Transit Mall and Light Rail facilities and sweeping of pedestrian walkways and bike lanes.
Why wasn't street sweeping completed in front of my house?
There are many reasons why the sweeper may not have been able to remove debris from your street. Most often, it's because items such as cars, bicycles, toys, basketball hoops, and refuse containers are blocking the roadway. Vehicles parked too close to each other for the sweeper to maneuver between them is another cause. Low-hanging trees and shrubs can also prevent sweepers from cleaning in front of your house.
How you can help street sweepers
Keeping the roadway in front of your house free of large objects and obstructions is the best way to assist street sweeping crews' clean-up efforts.
- Remove large sticks and branches from the roadway in front of your house. They will clog and jam the sweeper's operating system.
- Remove grass or weeds that grow in the gutter. This will reduce debris in front of your house and will improve water runoff during rainstorms.
- Report abandoned autos to the City's Abandoned Auto Hotline at 503-823-7309.
- Properly trim your street trees so the sweeper can clean next to the curb. If you need to prune trees in the right of way, contact the City Forester at 503-823-4489 for a free permit and trimming tips.
- Organize or participate in neighborhood clean ups.
- If you own a pet, please obey the City's "scoop law."
- Tell your children the benefits of a clean neighborhood and encourage them to dispose of litter properly.
Why the City cleans only streets with curbs
The City cleans only streets with curbs. This policy was initiated after a 1979 Street Cleaning Study presented to City Council found that 97% of street debris lies within 40 inches of the curb. The accumulation of debris at the curb is caused by the design of the street and vehicular movement. Streets are designed with a crown in the middle sloping toward the sides. Water and debris move toward the curb and gutter areas. Vehicle movement scatters debris to the edges of traffic lanes.
Streets with no curbs are affected by the same factors as curbed streets, but with no curb the debris is dispersed onto areas adjacent to the paved surfaces. Uncurbed streets are, in effect, self-cleaning. The policy recommendation of the study was that "no residential or arterial blockface be swept with a street sweeper unless a minimum of 75 percent of its length is curbed."
Why the City provides limited public notification of street cleaning schedules
The City does not currently have the tools to provide citywide time-certain information about our street sweeping schedule. Any attempt to provide a schedule online or through the mail would almost certainly result in a frustrated public because too many factors beyond our control always result in delays to our street sweeping schedule. Some street re-paving projects and some roadway construction projects do provide letters to residents about an anticipated work schedule.
The following factors frequently disrupt our street cleaning schedule:
- Weather - heavy rainfall, wind storm, snow and ice
- Equipment breaks down
- Utility work by other agencies
- Private construction activities in the public rights of way
- Other street maintenance and road repair activities
- Parked cars on both sides of the street
- How dirty the street is - extra debris in the street delays a crew
- Overhanging tree limbs that prohibit our crews from getting to the curb to clean a street - sometimes overhanging tree limbs prohibit our equipment from accessing a street
- Heavy leaf fall
- Employee emergencies - unexpected absences due to illness, family emergencies, or other emergencies
In addition, the expense of notification - signage, mailings, barricading - to get vehicles parked on one side or the other of a street is cost prohibitive.