Adopt-A-Highway in the News

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Adopt-A-Highway is in the News

The following is an excerpt of an article in Priceonics written by Alex Mayyasi published March 25, 2016. An earlier version of this story was published on March 19, 2014. To read full article click here.

The Economics of “Adopting A Highway”

On stretches of most highways, you see the signs every few miles. “Adopt A Highway: Dunkin’ Donuts.” Or “Adopt A Highway: Boy Scout Troop 102.” Or even “Adopt A Highway: Sigma Nu Fraternity.” The foster parents of America’s roadways are many and varied.

The Adopt A Highway concept began with an effort in the 1980s to rally volunteers in Texas to keep highways clear of trash. It has since become a national practice, and, inevitably, a niche industry of businesses (like Adopt-A-Highway Litter Removal Service of America Inc) that help corporate America to adopt highways.

These adoption agencies exist thanks to a certain compromise made by the managers of our nation’s highways: Companies would love to buy giant billboards, and states would love to have that money. But federal guidelines ban gratuitous signs alongside highways. As a result, the next best option is for companies to pay to clean up highways—and get a bit of advertising out of the  “Adopt A Highway” signs that are posted in thanks.

It’s a corporate takeover of what was once a purely charitable act of volunteering. And it seems to be working pretty well…

The enduring appeal of adopting a highway, according to current CEO Melinda Centner, is that it is a relative bargain by advertising standards. Adopting (or sponsoring) a highway through AAHLRSA costs $200-$600 per month. In contrast, billboards that are visible from highways often cost $7,000-$14,000 per month. Centner and her peers describe adopting a highway as the cheapest way to get a company name in front of customers’ eyeballs…

Today all but a few states run Sponsor A Highway programs for companies to pay others to clean up roadways on their behalf. A few states like California group both volunteers and corporate sponsors under the Adopt-A-Highway name, and a state like Illinois, which doesn’t allow organizations to subcontract out the work, is part of the minority.

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