Adopt-a-Highway

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do We Adopt?

Contact the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for an application packet, or download a form here

You can also call 1-800-FOR-ROAD (1-800-367-7623), e-mail adoptahighway@VirginiaDOT.org or find the Adopt-a-Highway coordinator in your area.

Once you have submitted the application and VDOT approves it, you can obtain safety vests, orange bags and important safety training information.

Video: Guidelines for volunteers

In one to two months, your signs will be erected and you can clean your adopted section of highway. 

How Do We Choose a Route?

You can request a route near home or work. VDOT’s local Adopt-a-Highway coordinator will determine if that stretch of road is available.  If it's not, the coordinator will work with you to find another road.

How Much Road Do We Clean?

In most cases, we ask you adopt a minimum of two miles. There are exceptions, depending on your area's needs.

Does It Cost?

There's no cost to volunteers, who provide a great service to VDOT and the commonwealth.

How Many People Do We Need?

As many as it takes. We recommend you have enough so pickups are manageable. We do have volunteers who make solo adoptions and are comfortable working their area by themselves.

Is It Difficult to Keep Roadsides Clean?

That depends on traffic volume, road location, group size and pickup frequency.

Most say pickups are not taxing. But if you’re an individual who's adopted a highly traveled road to a landfill, you may have your work cut out for you.

Troop 750 
 

The local Adopt-a-Highway coordinator can help determine the condition of the road before you adopt.

What's In It for Us?

With your name on an Adopt-a-Highway sign, you’ll be recognized as community members who takes action.

You’ll receive VDOT’s full support in achieving clean roadsides. We'll supply bags, vests and a friendly ear at our local office.

You’ll be part of a top-notch environmental effort, joining tens of thousands of other Virginians in a program that's been nationally recognized for "superior progress in the prevention and collection of litter."

Can Children Participate?

Children are allowed to participate in highway adoptions and cleanups. However, there are very specific rules and procedures the group must follow for safety.

The group's contact person must inform VDOT if anyone under age 18 will participate in any of the group's pickups.

No one under 18 may participate in interstate or interchange cleanups. Groups must provide at least one adult supervisor for every six children under 18. 

A group with participants under age 10 may adopt highways when the local VDOT office determines the specified roadway is safe and the group has committed adult supervisors.

How Does the Cleanup Work?

Set a date and time convenient for all participants. Be sure the pickup is in daylight hours. Avoid rush hour.

Gather the group before passing out safety vests and orange bags. Check to see that everyone has gloves and closed-toe shoes.

Take a few minutes to review basic safety issues.

You should then be ready to start bagging trash.

What Should We Do With the Bags?

When the pickup is complete, gather the bags in one or two places. If you can't remove the collected trash, notify the local VDOT office before a pickup so bag removal can be scheduled for the following workday.

In either case, report the number of participants and bags collected to VDOT.

How Do We Report a Pickup?

Volunteer bags trash
Volunteer bags trash in
Hanover County. 

 

There are three ways:

How Often Should We Do Pickups?

Participants agree to clean their adopted stretch of highway at least four times a year for two years.

Some volunteers do pickups more frequently. If you conduct pickups at regular intervals, you can estimate how often they need to be done to keep your section of road clean.

Can an Adoption Memorialize a Loved One?

Yes. "In Memory Of …" adoptions are permitted. 

Can a Sign Say What We Want?

No. Signs are intended to recognize you or your group, not your message. Space is limited to 48 characters.

Can We Advertise a Business by Adopting a Highway?

Yes. However, business names on signs need to be the actual business name, with no additional advertising.

For example: "B.J. Smith, A Tree-Cutting Service" wouldn’t be allowed if "A Tree-Cutting Service" wasn’t part of the business name.

Can a Sign Include a Web Address?

Unless it's the name of your business, Web sites aren't permitted on signs.

Can We Remove Temporary Signs From Our Adopted Highway?

This is addressed in Section 33.1-373  of the Code of Virginia. As an Adopt-a-Highway volunteer, you are considered a representative of VDOT, with the full backing of the agency’s commissioner.

If signs are placed within the state right of way, you may remove them only from within your adopted section.

However, some sign owners have received permits to place them. Check with your local VDOT office about whether the signs are there illegally and be certain you know the right of way boundaries.

How Can We Remove the Signs Safely?

Wear heavy gloves when removing signs, in case there are sharp edges.

If you remove signs attached to poles within the right of way, wear safety glasses and use an appropriate tool to do it safely.

Do not remove any signs beyond your adopted section. Stay within the area marked by your safety signs.

How Much of a Difference Does Adoption Make?

Adopt-a-Highway volunteers clean almost 12,000 miles of highways annually. That's more that 20 percent of Virginia’s state-maintained roads. 

Research has shown that Adopt-a-Highway roadsides are less littered than those maintained by road crews. 

Children and young adults who pick up litter learn valuable lessons that can lead to life-long environmental awareness. 

Seeing volunteers at work along the road often makes motorists think before carelessly discarding trash.

When Did Adopt-a-Highway Begin?

It started in Texas in 1985.

In Virginia, the program began in 1988 and is one of the largest programs in the country.

Today, 48 states and Puerto Rico have instituted Adopt-a-Highway programs, along with Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Spain. That's put one million volunteers to work along the road. 

It has sparked many related programs, including Adopt-a-Spot, Adopt-a-Street and Adopt-a-Stream.

Page last modified: March 31, 2014