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Adopt-A-Highway Program
Across the country, thousands of communities have signaled their commitment to keeping America beautiful by adopting stretches of highway and pledging to keep them litter-free.
During the late 1980s, the New York State Department of Transportation re-assessed its priorities in view of a declining work force and a reduced operating budget. DOT's first priority was then - and is now - to operate the state's highways and bridges safely and cost-effectively; for example, to resolve safety issues, to maintain pavement and guide rail or to control ice and snow. As a result, fewer and fewer resources were available for roadside beautification or other aesthetic-related activities. New York was not the only state with the dilemma of having limited resources with which to address myriad responsibilities.
More than a decade earlier, the State of Texas had begun an experimental program, a unique partnership in which everyone benefitted. Through the "Don't Mess With Texas " Program, organizations and individuals volunteered to adopt sections of Texas highways and to remove roadside litter. As a result, taxpayers had cleaner highways; civic organizations were involved in beneficial community projects; and, the State of Texas was able to accomplish something more than its limited resources traditionally would have allowed. "Don't Mess With Texas" was an almost perfect program, one in which everyone benefitted some way. What had begun as a county-wide experiment grew into a national model, a program that encompasses the entire 293,000-mile Texas state highway system.
Legislation to formalize New York State's Adopt-A-Highway Program was passed in 1990 to encourage individuals or groups to clean up highway roadsides and to recognize those volunteers who do. Participation in the program also fosters a sense of community ownership of the roadway as well as a sense of pride in its appearance.
Today, all 50 states have some type of a sponsor-a-highway or adopt-a-highway program in place because there is a very real human need for aesthetically pleasing roadsides in spite of the reality that highway beautification simply cannot compete on an even level with highway safety for ever-diminishing public funds.
  • Approximately 5,000 miles of New York State highway roadsides are adopted.
  • The New York State Department of Transportation has 2,400 active Adopt-A-Highway agreements in place.
  • Volunteer groups, organizations, businesses or individuals may adopt a segment of highway as long as there are no other adopters of that segment.
  • An adopted highway segment is usually two miles long but this length may vary.
  • NYSDOT must determine that the segment to be adopted is safe for voluntary beautification.
  • Adopters agree to perform at least four pick-ups each year.
  • Adopters must be at least 12 years-old; adopters between 12 years-old and 18 years-old must be accompanied by a guardian.
  • Proposed adopters must enter into formal agreements with NYSDOT.
  • Each Adopt-A-Highway agreement is for two years and is renewable provided the adopters have functioned in accordance with their previous agreement.
  • Adopters must obtain a Highway Work Permit from the New York State Department of Transportation; NYSDOT waives the standard permit fee.
  • Adopt-A-Highway agreements may be terminated if the adopters fail to perform in accordance with the signed agreement.
  • The Department reserves the right to deny participation to any proposed adopters whose participation would not be in the best interest of New York State.
  • NYSDOT collects and properly disposes of the litter the adopters have collected.
The New York State Department of Transportation welcomes civic, fraternal, service (Rotary Club of Hamburg), youth, senior citizen, scout, school, church, synagogue and neighborhood organizations.