First Adopt-a-Highway sign goes up

First Adopt-a-Highway sign goes up

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On March 9, 1985, the first-ever Adopt-a-Highway sign is erected on Texas’s Highway 69. The highway was adopted by the Tyler Civitan Club, which committed to picking up trash along a designated two-mile stretch of the road.

The Adopt-a-Highway program really began the year before, when James Evans, an engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation, noticed litter blowing out of the back of a pickup truck he was following in Tyler, Texas. Concerned about the increasing cost to the government of keeping roadways clean, Evans soon began asking community groups to volunteer to pick up trash along designated sections of local highways. Evans got no takers for his idea; however, Billy Black, the public information officer for the Tyler District of the Texas Department of Transportation, took up the cause and organized the first official Adopt-a-Highway program, which included training and equipment for volunteers. After the Tyler Civitan Club’s sign went up on March 9, other groups volunteered to beautify their own stretches of highway. The program eventually spread to the rest of the U.S. and to such countries as Canada, Japan and New Zealand.

Businesses, schools and churches are among the main organizations to participate in the Adopt-a-Highway (also known in some places as Sponsor-a-Highway) program. However, over the years, some Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups, along with other controversial organizations, have tried to become involved–and thereby receive signs along highways acknowledging their effort. After the state of Missouri rejected a Ku Klux Klan group’s application to join the program, the white supremacist organization charged that its free-speech rights were being violated. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Missouri couldn’t prevent the KKK from participating in the Adopt-a-Highway program.

Adopt-a-Highway - Safety first

While volunteer help is greatly appreciated, safety is WSDOT’s number one concern. Washington’s Adopt-a-Highway program has an outstanding safety record, and WSDOT wants to keep it that way.

All groups are required to watch a safety video and read through safety tips before picking up litter. In addition, all groups are loaned safety equipment for use while picking litter. WSDOT provides bright orange vests, hard hats, traffic signs and vehicle-mounted strobe lights.

Tips for volunteer groups include:

  • Carpool to the adopted section and pull all vehicles as far off the side of the road as possible
  • Have a first aid kit on hand, and a person who has a first aid card
  • Do not pick up heavy or hazardous materials - call the local Adopt-a-Highway coordinator for a crew to dispose of the objects.

Safety Tips

Wear appropriate clothing during cleanup
It is important to make yourself visible to the traveling public and protect yourself from weather conditions or possible injury. Be sure everyone in the group wears the following items:

  • Safety hat and vest
  • Gloves
  • Long pants and a long sleeve shirt
  • Thick-soled boots or shoes

Preparing for litter cleanup
Before litter pickup begins, always set up a temporary "Volunteer Litter Crew Ahead" sign and park a buffer vehicle with warning light ahead of the adopted area (see the Adopted-A-Highway Traffic Control Plan).

Conduct a refresher safety review (pdf 168kb) for crew members. You will need to have an adult supervisor for every eight minor crew members -- those between 15 and 18 years of age. We recommend you take a first-aid kit appropriate for the size of the crew with a listing of the location and phone numbers for local emergency services. At least one person should have a valid first-aid card.

Carpool when you transport crew members to the work site using no more than two vehicles when possible. Vehicles should be parked off the shoulder when conditions permit, otherwise park with no more than two wheels on the paved shoulder. Make yourself familiar with the most direct route to the hospital and park at least one vehicle nearby in case of an emergency.

While picking up
Be safe and always use caution. At all times:

  • Watch your footing, stay off rocky, steep or unstable slopes
  • Avoid poison ivy, poison oak, blackberries and other thorny plants.
  • Watch for stinging insects
  • Walk single file across bridges
  • Carry a box for broken glass and other sharp objects.
  • Avoid over exertion, rest when needed
  • Drink plenty of water and use sun screen
  • Recycle. Recycle any of the materials found during your litter control effort. Profits from the sale of these collected items belong to your group.

Don't forget the paperwork
Activity Reports are to be filled out each time a group works on the roadside, and turned into WSDOT within seven days. This can be done online. This provides documentation of participation in the event an injury occurs while working on the roadside, and allows WSDOT to meet reporting requirements.

In the event of an emergency, dial 911. Report any injuries or accidents to your local coordinator within two business days of the occurrence.

For your safety

  • Don't use headphones which interfere with hearing and warnings.
  • Don't engage in horseplay or pranks endangering the safety of yourself, fellow members or the traveling public.
  • Don't cross the roadway on foot. Get in a vehicle and get out on the same side as the pickup will take place. No U-turns at intersections and interchanges. Turn off the flashing warning light while traveling to and from the work site.
  • Don't pick up litter on the roadway.
  • Don't pick up litter on bridges, tunnels or overpasses.
  • Don't compact trash bags -- injuries from sharp or broken objects may result or the bag may burst.
  • Don't pick up syringes or hypodermic needles.
  • Don't carry knives, machetes, axes, etc.
  • Never pick up extremely heavy or unyielding objects, dead animals, or suspected toxic or hazardous materials. Mark the location of these items and notify WSDOT for pick up.

If your group has any further questions regarding safety tips or litter control, please contact the Adopt-A-Highway Coordinator in your area.

Adopt-A-Highway Program

Begun in 1990, DelDOT&rsquos Adopt-A-Highway (AAH) Program is a partnership between the Department of Transportation and volunteers, working together to make Delaware better, two miles at a time. More than just a cleanup campaign, this innovative program works to educate citizens of all ages about the responsibilities of land stewardship-the care and repair of our environment. Ultimately, the AAH Program is about people caring enough to make a difference.

Currently, more than 900 groups, organizations and individuals adopt stretches of roadway throughout the state. Participants agree to care for a two-mile section of the road in their community. During the course of the sponsor&rsquos participation, groups are responsible for conducting and reporting at least three cleanups per year. DelDOT provides safety vests and trash bags (rubber gloves are available upon request). Signs marking sponsors&rsquo involvement in the program are installed at the beginning and end of the two-mile stretch of adopted roadway. Of course, participants get more from the program than publicity they get the satisfaction of knowing that their efforts have a direct effect on quality of life in Delaware.

AAH volunteers collect tons of debris from the sides of Delaware&rsquos roads each year. A large percentage of this trash is made up of recyclable materials, such as aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles. Participating groups have the option of turning this trash into cash through recycling. Many of our volunteers " hit the road" often, in order to help fund group outings, special activities or even uniforms! If sponsors prefer, following each cleanup, they may leave their filled trash bags near their sign for collection by DelDOT. Please inform your district contact person that these trash bags need to be picked up by DelDOT.

Each time a volunteer is seen walking down a Delaware roadside, someone, somewhere, is reminded of our shared responsibility to preserve and protect the landscape. This sense of responsibility put into action is at the heart of the AAH Program. Adopting a road is a big commitment. It&rsquos hard work. Each year, though, thanks to the efforts of dedicated sponsors throughout the state, cleaning Delaware gets a little easier.

Conditions for Participation

  1. A minimum two-mile section of highway is required for adoption. Litter pickup will be done on both sides of the roadway three times per year, more often if necessary.
  2. Roadways will be approved by the DelDOT District Engineer or an appointed representative. The Interstate System and some high volume roadways are not eligible for adoption. However, businesses may wish to participate in a separate sponsorship program to clean high-visibility roads (for a fee) by contacting the Adopt-A-Highway Maintenance Corporation at 800.200.0003.
  3. Any local community organization, such as civic, social or school groups, is eligible to participate, as are businesses and/or individuals 18 years of age or older. Participants must have approved applications and releases on file with the DelDOT District Engineer or the appointed representative before conducting their first clean up.
  4. The AAH group name (maximum of 28 characters including punctuation and spaces) will go on the sign in block letters. Logos, website and/or email addresses are not allowed on the signs. Two signs will be posted (one at each end of the two mile stretch) indicating the group responsible for cleaning the roadway. Signs will be designed and installed in accordance with the Delaware Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).
  5. Participants are asked to adopt the roadway for a minimum period of two years. Continued participation in the program is granted as long as three activity reports per year are filed with DelDOT. Please consider this when initially adopting a road.
  6. Group members less than 15 years old must be supervised by adults 18 years or older. Individuals under 12 years of age will not be permitted to participate. There will be one adult per eight underage members (12 to 18 years of age). Large groups should be divided into teams of eight or fewer members. Each team should stay on one side of the road.
  7. Adults are required to complete, sign and submit the "Adult's Release" prior to their first cleanup. If applicable, the "Children's Release" should be completed, signed and submitted for any child between 12 - 17 years old who plans to participate in the cleanup. These forms must be on file prior to participants conducting cleanups. In addition, the volunteer will need to update these forms anytime group members change.
  8. Your local district coordinator will supply participants with safety information, plastic trash bags, safety vests, and safety signs (and rubber gloves available upon request). Materials are to be picked up from the local DelDOT district maintenance office during work hours one week prior to the scheduled clean up. (You do not need to call to request supplies, as they are usually ready for immediate pickup). Safety vests must be lime green in color (ANSI 107/2004 or better, Class Type II) and be worn at all times when performing clean ups. Vests should be kept by volunteers for future cleanups, but must be returned when withdrawing from the program.
  9. Participants are encouraged to recycle appropriate materials.
  10. If participants do not dispose of the filled trash bags themselves, they must notify the local district coordinator as soon as possible so that DelDOT can remove this trash.
  11. DelDOT will bear the cost of producing, installing and maintaining the signs. DelDOT reserves the right to edit the requested group name to appear on the sign. There is no fee to the volunteer for participation in the program.
  12. No personal items should be attached to the AAH sign or metal post (i.e., teddy bears, balloons, seasonal items, etc.). DelDOT reserves the right to remove items from the sign/post.
  13. DelDOT will determine the best placement for the AAH signs, and will make all attempts to post the sign as close to the beginning and ending point of the two mile adopted stretch of roadway. Signs will be designed and installed in accordance with the Delaware Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). At times, DelDOT may co-post a sign with an existing regulatory or warning sign. It should be noted that the regulatory or warning signs receives priority in placement. In addition, signs may be posted on a utility pole. DelDOT does this to decrease the number of metal signposts on the roadway, ultimately making the roadsides safer for motorists who may run off the road. Signs will not be posted at key decision points where a road user&rsquos attention is more appropriately focused on other traffic control devices or traffic conditions, including exit and entrance ramps, intersections, rail grade crossings and areas of limited sight distance. It should be noted that if construction activities occur on the adopted roadway, the AAH signs may be covered temporarily during construction to allow road users to focus on changed roadway conditions. Covering of signs during construction activities will be at DelDOT's discretion.
  14. Local district coordinators will monitor and administer the program in their respective counties. Please contact them with specific questions regarding road conditions in your area.

Local District Adopt-A-Highway Coordinators
New Castle County: 302.326.4462
Kent County: 302.760.2424
Sussex County: 302.853.1315

Safety Tips

The Adopt-A-Highway Program promotes responsible behavior. All participants are asked to keep this goal in mind when conducting cleanups. Program requirements state that the following regulations must be shared with all members: Please review and discuss this information prior to conducting clean ups.

Fast facts:
- The first Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Adopt-A-Highway pickup of the year is April 17-25 for the southern half of the Lower Peninsula.
- Pickups for the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula will be from May 1 to May 9.
- Sections of highway are still available to adopt. Go to for more information.
- MDOT requires all Adopt-A-Highway volunteers to wear a mask outdoors when they are unable to consistently maintain a distance of 6 feet or more from individuals who are not members of their household.

April 12, 2021 -- Volunteers will fan out out across lower Michigan to give state highway roadsides their annual spring cleaning beginning Saturday as groups in the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Adopt-A-Highway (AAH) program pick up litter from April 17 to 25.

The first AAH pickup for the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula will be later, from May 1 to 9, when spring has had more time to set in.

"Our thousands of Adopt-A-Highway volunteers deserve thanks for helping to save taxpayer dollars while keeping Michigan roadsides clean," said State Transportation Director Paul C. Ajegba. "Their community spirit and pride make a huge difference. We ask all motorists to keep an eye out for these volunteers and drive cautiously during the pickup periods."

Volunteers pick up litter three times each year. Statewide, there will be a summer pickup from July 17 to 25 and a fall pickup from Sept. 25 to Oct. 3.

The AAH program began in Michigan in 1990. Today, around 2,900 groups have adopted more than 6,000 miles of state highway. In a typical year, these volunteers collect 60,000 to 70,000 bags of trash annually, an estimated $5 million value for the state. Last year was anything but typical, though. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the first pickup of 2020 was cancelled. While the summer and fall pickups went forward with COVID precautions in place, groups collected around 20,000 bags of trash. Organizers speculate the numbers were down because fewer groups were able to participate - not necessarily because there was less trash on the highways.

AAH groups wear high-visibility, yellow-green safety vests required by federal regulations when working within a highway right of way. MDOT provides free vests and trash bags, and arranges to haul away the trash. Volunteers include members of various civic groups, businesses and families. Crew members have to be at least 12 years old and each group must number at least three people. MDOT requires all Adopt-A-Highway volunteers to wear a mask outdoors when they are unable to consistently maintain a distance of 6 feet or more from individuals who are not members of their household.

Sections of highway are still available for adoption. Groups are asked to adopt a section for at least two years. AAH signs bearing a group's name are posted along the stretch of adopted highway. There is no fee to participate.

Several landfills in southwestern Michigan are also chipping in to help the AAH program. Westside Landfill in St. Joseph County, C&C Landfill in Calhoun County, Orchard Hill Landfill in Berrien County, Southeast Berrien County Landfill near Niles, and Republic Services Gembrit Circle Transfer Station in Kalamazoo have all agreed to accept trash generated by the three annual AAH pickups at no charge. In exchange, these businesses receive a sign recognizing their support.

Almanac: Adopt-a-Highway signs

CBS News

For that was the day a civic group in Tyler, Texas, put up the first Adopt-A-Highway sign, committing its members to cleaning up litter along a two-mile stretch of highway at no cost to taxpayers.

The Adopt-A-Highway idea was quickly adopted by other states around the country, though not without controversy.

Facing opposition for its white supremacist views, the Ku Klux Klan had to go to court to win the right to sponsor a stretch of highway in Missouri.

Missouri responded by renaming the highway for civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks.

Over the years, volunteer groups and individuals of every background and persuasion imaginable have proudly adopted highways coast-to-coast.

Adopted highways have worked their way into popular culture, providing gags for cartoons.

Trending News

The Adopt-A-Highway theme even showed up in an episode of "Seinfeld," when Cosmo Kramer declared, "As of today I am the proud parent of a one-mile stretch of the Arthur Berkhardt Expressway. I'm part of the solution now."

Though the TV Kramer took his pride of highway ownership to disastrous extremes, the real-life volunteers who work along our roadsides are serious and dedicated, willing to clean-up the messes others leave behind for nothing more than the recognition bestowed by a simple sign.

For the Good of the Community

Sponsors are committed to removing litter six times a year for two years on a minimum of half-mile segment of county road right-of-way. They also need to attend a safety meeting given by the highway foreman of the participating maintenance unit. Once the safety meeting is completed, participants arrange and schedule an appropriate litter removal cleanup date with the maintenance unit foreman every eight weeks.

“We have high expectations of what our roads are supposed to look like,” Denise Sedon, assistant general manager of the Hunter’s Creek Community Association said. “Being a part of the program shows our residents we care, and it also keeps up our great relationship with the County.”

The southwest Orlando community has adopted more than one road over the years and considers its involvement beneficial to the growing region.

“With an ever-increasing population and the heavier traffic that comes with that, especially on John Young Parkway, there’s unfortunately more garbage strewn about,” acknowledged Sedon. “Therefore, we need to take responsibility and do our part to keep our roadways clean.”

The Trinity Christian School Junior Beta Club first became an Adopt-A- Highway sponsor in 1991, cleaning a section of Roger Williams Road between 436 and 441. Since then, it has remained active in the program. According to Edith Bentley, band director and Junior Beta Club sponsor, it’s a great way for students to better appreciate the environment in which they live.

“They’re constantly disappointed at how trashy our road is after only a weekend goes by, but they understand that although they can’t force people to be respectful and not litter, they’re still serving the community at large by their efforts,” asserted Bentley. “It’s an opportunity for them to make a difference and teaches them to be civically responsible.”

Over the years, the Adopt-a-Highway program has been successful with cleaning up miles of roadway throughout Orange County, all thanks to caring residents who participate by volunteering their time.

“The time they invest in keeping our roadways clear of debris helps build a better community for all of us,” said Poke-Clarke. “It’s about people caring enough to make a difference.”

If you or your organization are interested in participating in the Adopt-A-Highway Program, contact the Orange County Public Works Department, Roads & Drainage Division at 407-836-7900 or 407-836-3111.

Photo Caption: Local residents participate in picking up litter at Orange County’s Adopt-A-Highway program.

You've seen the signs, but how exactly do those Adopt-a-Highway programs work?

CINCINNATI -- A small group of volunteers can go a long way in saving tax dollars spent on Ohio's roadways.

Road cleanup in the seven counties that comprise the Ohio Department of Transportation's District 8 cost $368,995 last year. Through ODOT's Adopt-a-Highway program, volunteers helped offset cleanup costs in the district by $10,866.

Participants in the program commit for two years to clean up 2-mile sections of state routes, United States routes and interstates under ODOT jurisdiction. ODOT provides safety training, disposable safety vests, trash bags and road signs. Volunteers provide the effort.

"It doesn't cost anything, just their time," said Jennifer Henderson, Adopt-a-Highway manager for ODOT District 8.

The Texas Department of Transportation implemented the first Adopt-a-Highway program in 1985. Inspired by theirs, ODOT started its own program in 1990.

Any group or individual willing and able to meet the Adopt-a-Highway expectations can participate in the program.

"We do not turn anyone down who's willing to help us clean up our highways," Henderson said.

Volunteers must apply for a permit, watch a safety video and sign release forms to participate in the program.

Participating groups are expected to pick up their section of roadway at least four times a year.

More than 1,500 groups participate in the program statewide. About 150 of those are active within District 8, which includes Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont counties.

Of the seven counties in the district, Green County has the highest participation, Henderson said.

Some local organizations and businesses participating in the program include AK Steel, the University of Cincinnati's Triangle Fraternity, Colerain Community Association and Westwood-based church City on a Hill.

The region's 150 volunteer organizations offer some relief for ODOT employees in an area with a pervasive litter problem.

"Cincinnati is one of the worst in the state as far as litter," Henderson said.

The unsavory appearance of litter is one of the top factors behind organizations' motivation to participate in the program.

"A lot of businesses don't like the trash," Henderson said.

Businesses aren't alone in the desire to keep roadways looking nice -- church leaders for City on a Hill share a similar mindset.

"It allows us to be able to kind of take pride in the community where we own property," said Jonathan Price, administrative pastor for City on a Hill.

The number of groups participating in the program locally has remained roughly the same in recent years.

"It kind of stays pretty level," Henderson said.

Although the number may not be increasing, the consistency indicates that there generally are enough new participants to fill the gaps left by those who don't renew their permits, she added.

Groups typically are responsible for a 2-mile section of roadway, but exceptions can be granted for smaller groups.

Depending on the organization and the timing of their cleanup efforts, an average group can range from as few as four volunteers to as many as 30.

In addition to enhancing the appearance of the region's roadways, the Adopt-a-Highway program offers an opportunity for businesses and organizations to give back to the community.

"AK Steel is focused on giving back to the communities where we live and work, and this is a great way to be able to help make a difference," wrote AK Steel corporate manager of communications and public relations Lisa Jester in an email.

The effort can strengthen a team player mentality within a group, too.

"It brings people together for a common cause," Price said.

Individuals or groups interested in participating in the Adopt-a-Highway program can find contact information for local district coordinators by clicking here.

Adopt a Highway volunteers put up big numbers in 2017

PHOENIX ­­­– Almost 1,500 miles of landscape cleaned along state highways. Fourteen-thousand bags of trash collected. Half a million taxpayer dollars saved.

That’s what nearly 11,000 volunteers wearing lime-yellow vests accomplished in 2017 through the Arizona Department of Transportation’s Adopt a Highway program.

With many other highway stretches available for adoption, even more can be accomplished in 2018.

“As a frontier state, Arizona has a long history of self-sacrifice and volunteerism, and these impressive numbers illustrate those values,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “Highways provide a first impression of Arizona for many visitors, so we all owe a debt of gratitude to those who are investing time and effort through Adopt a Highway.”

Regardless of how many people volunteer for Adopt a Highway, Halikowski said, everyone has a responsibility for keeping Arizona litter-free.

“We have to continue changing the culture until everyone instinctively knows that littering is absolutely unacceptable,” he said.

Volunteer groups can apply for two-year permits to adopt highway stretches using an application available at Highways are available in ADOT engineering and maintenance districts around Arizona, and each district has someone available to help groups make selections.

Those accepted for the program get their own instantly recognizable blue sign featuring the name of the organization or group. Groups are expected to clean their stretches of highway at least three times a year.

Volunteers must be at least 12 years old, and cleanup crews should consist of six to 10 people. Groups schedule their cleanups ahead of time with their local ADOT districts, which provides trash bags, scheduled collections and safety training.

Adopt a Highway also has a sponsorship program through which businesses use ADOT-approved providers to clean up along busier highway stretches that tend to attract more litter. Participants in the sponsorship program can have their names and approved logos on blue Adopt a Highway signs.

Mary Currie, who oversees Adopt a Highway volunteer programs, said volunteers include those drawn to service, including retirees, civic organizations and faith groups, as well as families who adopt in memory of a loved one who has passed away. Volunteers tend to have two characteristics: a lot of drive and a love of the outdoors.

“It’s not easy working under the Arizona sun,” Currie said. “But it’s a great way to get exercise and have fun with friends, family or colleagues while providing an invaluable service to Arizona.”

General Information

Any business or organization, including civic, educational, fraternal, neighborhood, religious, scout, senior service, and youth may enter into a DUTCHESS COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS (DCDPW) "ADOPT-A-HIGHWAY" Agreement.

The business/organization will be permitted to perform roadside maintenance activities including litter pickup, planting and maintaining approved vegetation, or other activities specifically approved by DCDPW Engineering Division. The Department may modify this list as needed to accommodate specific situations.

The Agreement is for a 1-year period and is renewable every January 1.

The approximate length of highway to be adopted is 2 miles. The Department may modify the length requirements depending on roadway character and to accommodate requests to adopt interchanges or entrances to villages and town centers.

The minimum age of the participants without adult supervision is 18 years. One adult supervisor MUST be provided by the business/organization for every 6 persons between the ages of 12 and 18. No person under age 12 is permitted.

The business/organization will be required to organize a safety briefing with a representative from the DCDPW Engineering Division before each pickup. All participants must attend the safety briefings before participating in the cleanup efforts.

All participant vehicles shall be parked off (outside) the roadway shoulder.

The DCDPW Engineering Division will provide trash bags, which the business/organization may obtain during normal working hours.

The business/organization will place the full trash bags at 1 or more locations along the adopted highway shoulder. The business/organization will call DCDPW at (845) 486-2925 on the working day (Monday-Friday) prior to the event so that the trash bags can be collected on the working day after the event.

The suggested minimum frequency of pickup along highways is 4 times per year with the first pickup occurring in the April-May "spring cleanup" time period. The Department may modify the suggested frequencies to accommodate the specific conditions encountered.

Each business/organization will be required to obtain a Dutchess County Highway Work Permit, and provide a certificate of general liability insurance listing the County of Dutchess, 22 Market Street, Poughkeepsie, NY, 12601, as additional insured. If the business/organization is unable to provide the certificate of insurance, it may apply for a waiver of the insurance requirement.

Each business/organization will be required to obtain Workers' Compensation Insurance or provide proof of exemption.

The DCDPW will install an "Adopt-A-Highway" sign naming the "adopting" business/organization at the beginning and end of each section of highway adopted.

The Department's Permit Engineer will be the DCDPW's contact with the business/organization and manage the agreement after it is signed. The business/organization will be required to designate one of their members as the coordinator.

The Department may modify the standard agreement on a case-by-case basis as noted above to address the specifics of the business/organization and the situation. DCDPW Engineering Division will review any changes as requested to the standard agreement.

Why Adopt a Highway?

In this personal finance lesson, students will learn about the successful Adopt-a-Highway program.



Prompt students with the following discussion:

“Have you ever been driving in a car and noticed a paper bag, soda can or other litter along the highway? You may not realize it but that highway trash is costing you and your family. What might be done to help solve this problem? In 1985, in Texas, an innovative program was developed to address the problem. It is called the Adopt-a-Highway Program. This program has now spread to many other states and even to some other countries. Have you ever thought about how long discarded litter lasts? Some things might have a longer life span than most humans.”

Assign students Adopt-A-Highway Matching Activity in ReadyAssessments. This activity is designed for students to match common types of litter with decomposition times.

Ask students, “Were you surprised at how long some things last?” Show Decomposition Times and Litter Facts to students by sharing your computer screen or on a projector screen. Continue by stating, “Since many items last a long time, this means that discarded litter on the highways will not just decompose quickly, as some people think.”

State the following information to your students:

“Why do states hire workers to pick up trash from the highways? First, highway trash may pose a traffic hazard, especially items that can blow onto the highway. People expect to drive safely down state roads. Second, highway litter may injure wildlife, especially small animals that can get trapped in six-pack plastic rings for soda or beer. Third, litter can pose an environmental hazard as toxic chemicals can leak into soil or water as containers decompose. Lastly, highway litter is unsightly and does not attract tourists. In many states today, tourism is big business and states want to present their best appearance to tourists who drive on the state highways. Often the first impression tourists receive about a state or area is formed from the condition of the highways and roads. A key element of that impression is the amount of litter seen by the roadside. Most states have fines to discourage drivers and passengers from littering.”

Show Fines for Littering by sharing your screen or on a projector screen. Then state, “Unfortunately, these anti-littering programs based on fines have not been entirely successful. In search of a better alternative, many states have turned to Adopt-a-Highway programs to help with highway cleanup. The idea behind these programs was the brainchild of an engineer with the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDot) in Tyler, Texas.”

Have students read about how the program got started by sharing the article called A History of the Adopt a Highway Program in Texas. Once students read the article, assign Adopt-A-Highway Texas Program Quiz to your class(es). The article is linked in the description of the quiz. You can also assign Adopt-A-Highway Clean-Up Cost Quiz, where students calculate the cost to the taxpayer for removing highway litter.


Go to ReadyAssessments and assign Adopt-A-Highway Quiz to your class(es). After students complete the quiz, conclude the lesson with the following discussion:

“You may have a basis for judging whether the cost of highway cleanup in Texas looks high. Texas actually spends less than some other states on highway cleanup. In 2001, Georgia spent $12 million to pick up trash and debris from its roadways. This represents an opportunity cost for the state – $12 million spent on highway cleanup that could be spent on another project or program. The state chose to spend this money on highway cleanup and their second choice or opportunity was not chosen. Think about what might be a good second choice for Georgia state legislators if they had this $12 million available? There are often economic trade-offs that occur in funding at the local, state and even national levels because dollars are limited but needs are not.”


This lesson can be personalized for students in particular states by having them look up Adopt-A-Highway programs for the appropriate state. You can also find many states’ highway cleanup costs and highway litter laws. This would make the lesson more relevant for the students.

Watch the video: Adopt a Highway Safety Video