Lady Bird Johnson, wife of former president Lyndon Johnson, dreamed of keeping land clean near America's highways. She was the driving force behind the Highway Beautification Act of 1966. But, Lady Bird's dream got side-tracked in Missouri.
It's against the law to operate a visible junkyard within 1,000 feet of an interstate. However, junkyards slip past that law everyday. MoDOT is in charge of inspection and enforcement of the law in Missouri, but the dpartment says it does not have the manpower or money to keep Missouri out of the dumps.
There are nearly illegal 100 junkyards across the state. Unfortunately, junkyards are an epidemic in Missouri.
"He just leaves them sitting here, in my opinion, for spite," said Callaway County resident Ken Morris.
Morris has fought for 11 years to drive Algiere Salvage from his Callaway County backyard.
"He's already hauled 800 cars out here in the last two years," he added.
Morris said Algiere has put a dent in his property value.
"It's depreciated the ground."
Algiere's owner refused to go on camera, but said he always follows the law. Morris says that's a lie. He asked MoDOT for help several times, but says the department never responded.
"They stink because they don't do their job," Morris said.
MoDOT did respond to our call. We asked the department to put Algiere Salvage to the test.
"The first test is one: Is it visible from the traveling route? Is it within 1,000 feet of our right of way?" asked MoDOT's Scott Taylor.
"What do you got? Four hundred sixty-three yards, which is well over 1,000 feet," Taylor said. "I hate to say he's out of luck but, unfortunately, it's not a junkyard we control from a visual standpoint."
Of the 228 junkyards MoDOT does control, more than one-third clearly break the law.
"MoDOT forced the owner of this yard to clean up once before, only to have him create a bigger mess a month later," Taylor explained, in referring to one junkyard along I-70. "This is not a worst one, but it is a severe one."
The junkyard owner refused to go on camera. MoDOT gives violators like him 60 days to clean up. But, if that deadline passes with no cleanup, there's still no guarantee the state will do anything.
"We don't have the manpower, time or finances to take each one of these offenses to the circuit court system," Taylor explained.
MoDOT's eight full-time junkyard inspectors have been inspecting the past two months. They'll send letters to violators this month. However, there's not much to stop those letters from becoming junk mail.
The federal highway beautification law doesn't apply to parts of interstate highways within cities.
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