Idaho roads would like you to adopt them

There was an episode of the television show “Seinfeld” in 1997 entitled “The Pothole”. Among the storylines in the episode is one featuring the character Kramer. Kramer complains about the failing highway infrastructure after running over an abandoned sewing machine, so he adopts a one-mile piece of the “Arthur Burghardt Expressway” through the Adopt a Highway program. Not trusting the work to the regular maintenance crew, Kramer cleans the road himself and repaints the four-lane highway into two extra-wide lanes, but his efforts only result in mass confusion and congestion. It turns out that when two lanes merge into one without notice, cars collide. Nationwide, Adopt a Highway programs are real. In fact, the Idaho Transportation Department has one. According to a department press release, Idaho’s roadsides are indebted to Idaho’s Centennial Celebration in 1990 and the “Idaho is Too Great to Litter” campaign that was rolled out at that time to help keep the roadsides clean. Volunteer groups “adopt” a specific stretch of highway, usually two miles long (twice as long as in the Seinfeld episode), and take responsibility for keeping it clean by conducting regular litter patrols throughout the year. The Idaho Transportation Department estimates that the program saves the state about $750,000 annually by using volunteer labor. In the 33 years since the program was started, that adds up to about 24.8 million dollars. They say that more than 3.3 million pounds of trash and debris has been removed from Idaho’s roadsides through the program, including the trash pick-up efforts of inmate crews through the Department of Corrections (which means that the term “volunteer” is occasionally used broadly). The savings, the department says, are redirected to highway construction and necessary maintenance to improve Gem State roads and bridges. There are currently more than a thousand active volunteer groups participating in the statewide Adopt-a-Highway program (Idaho uses hyphens in the program’s title), and more than half of the state’s highways have been adopted. That means there’s still another half to go. They say there are still many opportunities for other groups and individuals to get involved. Right now, about a third of the state’s highway system is available and ready for adoption. If you’re interested in getting involved, go to the Idaho Transportation Department website at, and in the section marked “Travel”, click on Adopt-a-Highway. Happy cleaning, and the Gem State thanks you in advance.