Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

News Release

April 8, 2016

Orange barrels on a highway

Adopt a Highway volunteers save state more than $7 million in 2015

Nearly 1 million pounds of garbage picked up in highway clean-up efforts

Opportunities open for additional volunteer groups

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Volunteers helping with the Adopt a Highway program picked up 971,000 pounds—more than 100 dump truck loads—of litter in 2015, saving the state an estimated $7 million, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The Adopt a Highway program is staffed by more than 48,500 volunteers representing schools, businesses, non-profits, families and individuals who are helping to clean up more than 10,000 miles of Minnesota’s highways.

Many of the volunteer groups have been picking up trash since the program began in 1990. In 2015, volunteers spent more than 194,000 hours, including more than 9,000 pick-up events,   cleaning up Minnesota’s roadways.

“They volunteer to pick up for many reasons and take great pride in keeping our highways clean and beautiful,” said Ernest Lloyd, Adopt a Highway program administrator. “Because of volunteers’ contributions, our crews can spend more time on crucial elements of highway safety, such as fixing potholes, median barriers and repairing guardrail.”

Barb Nelson, Adopt a Highway volunteer coordinator for MnDOT’s District 1, Virginia Office, said, “I have some very dedicated groups. Many of them make an event out of picking up litter.”

“Our volunteers take such pride in their work,” said Nelson, who has been involved with the program since 2000. “They know it says a lot to motorists driving by to see the benefits of a clean highway due to their dedication.”   

Even with these great efforts, MnDOT is looking for more volunteers to help with this public service campaign, Lloyd said. To become part of the program, the volunteer groups agree to:

  • Adopt a highway for a minimum of two years
  • Select a segment of highway approximately two miles in length (Note: only select sections of state highways are available for adoption due to safety concerns)
  • Pick up litter on both sides of the highway
  • Pick up litter as often as needed from spring through fall, usually two to three times

MnDOT provides a safety training video, trash bags for cleanup and safety vests for each volunteer. The high-visibility color and reflective tape make litter crews more visible to passing motorists.

After the group completes its cleanup, MnDOT crews pick up the filled bags and large, heavy or hazardous items from the roadside. State workers, not volunteers, are largely responsible for litter pickup along the interstate. 

“We’ve been involved with the Adopt A Highway program since 1990 when it first began,” said Jim Miesen, past president of the Springfield Rotary Club in Springfield, Minn. “In addition to seeing the benefits to the road in our own community, it has become a great fellowship opportunity as well.” 

Steve Loch, vice president of the Maple Lake Lions Club, which has been with the program since its inception, said, “When we do our ditch clean-up we invite the adults and older kids of the community to help. By including these students we are allowing them to give back to their community while installing in them a civic pride.”    

Another Adopt a Highway option is “Pick A Highway,” which allows an individual, family, business or group the option of trying out the program with a one-time pickup of litter along sections of state highways that have not been adopted. 

Those interested in participating in the program can visit www.mndot.gov/adopt/contacts.html for local contact information.

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To learn more about funding Minnesota’s transportation system, visit Get Connected at www.dot.state.mn.us/getconnected.