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EDITORIAL: Keeping our highways beautiful

Posted 7/20/22

They’re a familiar site for motorists, not just in New York, but across the country: Thousands of communities have signaled their commitment to keeping America beautiful by adopting stretches of …

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EDITORIAL: Keeping our highways beautiful

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They’re a familiar site for motorists, not just in New York, but 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.

Every year, Adopt-A-Highway volunteers regularly collect tons of trash along the 5,000 miles of New York State highway roadsides that are are adopted.

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.

According to the state Department of Transportation website (DOT.NY.gov), 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.

Today, all 50 states have some type of adopt-a-highway program in place.

The New York State Department of Transportation has 2,400 active Adopt-A-Highway agreements. 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.

The program puts a priority on safety. 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. The New York State Department of Transportation welcomes civic, fraternal, service, youth, senior citizen, scout, school, church, synagogue and neighborhood organizations. If you’re interested, contact the state DOT office in Utica.

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