How to Adopt a Highway: Step-By-Step Instructions


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Adopting a highway may sound strange if you’ve never done it or you have no idea what it’s about in the first place. After all, it’s not something many are familiar with unless you happen to be directly involved with the Adopt-A-Highway program or see a sign along the road. 

Jump ahead to these sections:

Many companies adopt a highway to build customer appreciation while showcasing their company name or logo on the highway’s right of way. However, you don’t have to be a business to take advantage of this unique opportunity. You can even adopt a highway to remember your loved one who passed away.

If you're interested in other unique ways to honor a loved one, you can consider a custom urn from a store like Foreverence or even have a memorial diamond made from ashes with a company like Eterneva.

How to Adopt a Highway for You, Your Organization, or Family

Losing someone you love is, without a doubt, a painful experience. It’s not easy to say goodbye to people you hold close to your heart. Though they may not be with you physically, it doesn’t mean that they’re gone forever. There are many things you can do in memory of a loved one and adopting a highway is one of them. It can be an incredibly rewarding investment. 

» MORE: Planning doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Join the peace of mind movement.

Step 1: Be sure you want to commit

There are two reasons people typically adopt highways. 

  1. To do their part in helping keep the planet green. 
  2. To have a permanent sign placed in a public location that either advertises their business or stands as a tribute to a loved one. 

The important thing to remember when adopting a highway is the fact that many states require volunteer hours to keep that particular stretch of highway clean. You can hire a cleaning crew to do the work for you or, if the area allows, you can get a group of volunteers to clean it.

However you decide to keep the stretch of highway clear of trash and debris, be sure you’re ready to commit to this undertaking. Typically, highway adoptions are a minimum of two years.

Step 2: Fill out the proper paperwork

Like all things in life, highway adoption has its fair share of paperwork. The first thing you’ll be asked is the section of the highway you want to adopt. Most Adopt-a-Highway programs will ask you to choose a two-mile stretch of road. Depending on your location, however, the specific length of the highway you can adopt will vary.

You’ll be given information about sections that are already taken, so be sure to study the provided information before choosing a section. Also, keep in mind that you won’t be able to choose most stretches of interstate due to federal safety laws.

Step 3: Check the guidelines

Every state has its own Adopt-A-Highway program, so it’s vital that you check with your local Department of Transportation for guidelines, rules, and regulations. Some states won’t allow individuals to adopt highways, whereas others encourage it. Some allow adoption only through payment of a state-licensed cleaning crew and others ask for volunteerism to keep the roads clean.

Here are just a few variations:

  • South Carolina DOT requests adoption for rural roads with little traffic.
  • Kentucky DOT allows adoption by businesses, associations, communities, public organizations, and government entities but does not allow adoption by individuals.
  • New York DOT allows adoption by businesses, volunteer groups, organizations, or individuals.
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Step 4: Register

Your local department of transportation will provide you with all the paperwork you’ll need to adopt your stretch of highway. It is at this stage when you will specify who the highway is being adopted on behalf of. You’ll choose the wording and logo you want to appear on the sign placed at the beginning of the stretch you adopt. 

During this process, your state’s DOT will put you in touch with a local coordinator who serves as your main contact during the adoption process. Your coordinator is available to answer any questions or clarify details regarding your state’s adoption program and local guidelines. 

It’s important to note here that some states charge the adopter a fee to cover the cost of constructing your group’s adoption sign on the side of your adopted highway. Each state varies on this, however, so check with your coordinator to be sure. 

To start your adoption term, fill out and submit all forms to your coordinator. When you submit this paperwork, be prepared to commit to your highway adoption since most adoptions run along with the duration of 2 to 4 years.

As a final step, you might have to fill out safety permits and waivers depending on your local government statutes.

Step 5: Renew when needed

Most initial adoption terms are anywhere from two to four years. After that, you are free to submit a renewal form if you want to continue your highway adoption in memory of your loved one for another 2 to 4 years. Most governments allow you to renew your term as many times as you’d like as long as your group is in good standing.

The definition of being in “good standing” varies from program to program, but most will require no significant rule violations and the meeting of quarterly cleaning commitments. 

How to Adopt a Highway in Memory of Someone

It’s difficult to put grief into words when someone close passes away. A common response is the desire to do something that will help you and others remember that person forever. This is why many donate in someone’s name or form a foundation to help and inspire others.

Adopting a highway in the memory of someone you love will help keep their memory and legacy alive. Once you’ve completed the steps mentioned above, you can focus on the next few steps to complete your highway adoption in memory of a loved one.

» MORE: It's time to take your pre-planning seriously. Become a free member.

Step 1: Finalize your plan

To ensure you don’t leave anything out, make a list of everything you need to do. Write down the names of family members and close friends who are interested in joining you in your cause if you need to form a volunteer cleaning crew. Call them individually or have them all over to your home to share your idea. Get a list of everyone who wants to dedicate time to help you keep the highway clean in memory of your loved one. 

Once you have a list of dedicated volunteers, you can make a schedule for each month. Be sure to gather cleaning equipment such as trash bags and gloves in preparation for your first day out on the road. Defer to your local guidelines for the frequency of your cleaning schedule.

Step 2: Gather your crew

There are many ways to invite people for the cleanup day. If they live close to you, invite by word of mouth or send electronic invites. Make sure each person knows when and where to meet up and how long they’re expected to help. Remind them about how the Adopt-A-Highway program benefits the whole town. 

For those who want to help but are physically unable, consider asking them to give a memorial donation to the Adopt-A-Highway program in your state or helping provide clean up supplies for your group.

Adopt a Highway: Frequently Asked Questions

Adopting a highway isn’t as common as donating to a charity in lieu of flowers. Although it’s becoming more common, there are still some important things to know when you decide to adopt a highway in memory of someone you love. 

How much does it cost to adopt a highway? 

Cost varies depending on regulations specified by your local state department of transportation. If you hire a cleaning crew instead of using volunteer service, crew fees can run anywhere from $200 to $600. On the other hand, if you decide to lead a volunteer crew to clean your stretch of highway, it can be free. 

What are the benefits of adopting a highway? 

There are numerous benefits. For one, it’s a beautiful way to memorialize someone you love. You also share their legacy with every car that drives by and sees the sign. The memory of your loved one has a chance to make a significant impact through your actions.

It’s also a great way to contribute to social responsibility. We all want to help save the planet and make it a better place to live. Adopting a highway allows you to be socially responsible as you honor the memory of someone you love. Performing even a small act of kindness to help keep the planet green will have a long-lasting impact.

How long do you adopt a highway? 

A two-mile stretch of highway is adopted for a minimum of two years. It’s important to note that interstate highways are not eligible for adoption. Four times per year (or more in some areas due to heavy traffic), you agree to pick up litter. Adopt-A-Highway signs will be posted with your loved one’s or group’s name at the section of highway you choose during your term of adoption.

Why Adopt a Highway?

There are many ways to honor those who die. Donations are common, but if you’re looking for a unique way to remember your loved one, you can adopt a highway instead. Continue the eco-friendly trend by planting a tree in memory of your departed loved one to mark yearly anniversaries. Keeping a person’s legacy alive by paying it forward is a rewarding act of kindness that will remind you of their life and love.


  1. Adopt a Highway Program:
  2. South Carolina DOT Guidelines:
  3. Kentucky DOT Guidelines:
  4. New York DOT Guidelines:
  5. Mayyasi, Alex. “The Economics of Adopting a Highway,” Price Economics, Price Economics March 2014.

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