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-assesed its priorities to best allocate limited resources. 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 resources were available for roadside beautification.
Yet garbage strewn roadways are not only an unattractive nuisance, they present safety hazards as well. Litter, particularly plastic bags, can clog drains and cause chemicals to seep into water supplies with highway storm run-off. It can also lead to highway flooding during heavy rain storms. Trash can catch fire or block a motorists' view if caught in the wind. Any discarded containers can become potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes that spread harmful diseases.
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.
KEY POINTS ABOUT NYSDOT'S ADOPT-A-HIGHWAY PROGRAM
- 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.
WHO CAN ADOPT A NEW YORK STATE HIGHWAY?
Any business or organization may adopt a highway. On occasion, individuals or families adopt highways. The New York State Department of Transportation welcomes civic, fraternal, service, youth, senior citizen, scout, school, church, synagogue and neighborhood organizations.
WHAT MUST ADOPTERS DO?
Adopters are asked to commit to picking up litter along the section of state highway, which is usually two miles long, at least four times a year for two years. Adopters may mow the roadside or plant flowers and other NYSDOT-approved vegetation. Adopters may also keep the proceeds they earn from any recyclable trash.
WHAT DOES THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION DO?
NYSDOT must first determine that the section of highway to be adopted is suitable for adoption. Once that has been determined and the adoption agreement has been signed, NYSDOT will notify local media that the adopters have been awarded custody of a state highway. Before the first litter pick-up, DOT will conduct the requisite safety briefings; outfit the adopters with the appropriate orange safety gear; provide trash bags for roadside clean-up; pick up at a central location the litter the adopters have collected; and, properly disposes of the trash that was collected. The Department will also erect a blue-and-white Adopt-A-Highway sign within the adopted highway to acknowledge the adopters.
ADOPT-A-HIGHWAY SAFETY CHECKLIST
- Absolutely no horseplay!!!!!!
- Adopters must never walk on the guide rail.
- Adopters are to stay off the underside of overhead bridges.
- Adopters may not lean over bridge railings.
- Adopters must always face on-coming traffic.
- Adopters are not to park their vehicles on roadways or shoulders.
- Adopters must wear orange shirts or vests and hard hats at all times.
- Adopters are to wear long pants and the appropriate gloves on the job; NYSDOT recommends leather shoes or boots rather than sneakers.
- Adopters must never pick up needles, syringes, jagged glass, animal carcasses or heavy objects. Adopters are not to pick up anything that could be hazardous. If adopters have any doubt about whether or not they should touch anything, they are to call DOT's Adopt-A-Highway contact person immediately.
- All 12-to-18 year-old adopters must be supervised; there must be at least one supervisor for every six 12-to-18 year-olds.
- There will be no activity of any kind by adopters on the roadway surface or shoulders.
- Adopters may not engage in horseplay or other such activity that might jeopardize the adopters' safety or distract motorists.
- Adopters should have a first aid kit with them and transportation should be available at all times.
- At least one adopter at each cleanup should know CPR in case there is an emergency.
- Adopters should avoid over exertion; make arrangements to provide drinking water in hot weather.
- If adopters operate or are near someone who is operating power equipment, they must wear eye protection as well as ear protection.
- Adopters who are not using power equipment themselves are to stay well clear of mowing and trimming operations.
- Adopters should clear debris debris such as rocks and glass from areas to be mowed.
- Adopter are advised to wear work gloves whenever they are doing highway work.