Adopt-A-Highway (AAH)

About Adopt-A-highway

The Iowa DOT has an ongoing partnership with the citizens of Iowa to help maintain the appearance of our roadsides throughout the state. This program also helps increase public awareness of environmental needs along Iowa highways by making sections of roadsides available for adoption.

The Iowa Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over the primary highway system. These highways are the interstate, US and Iowa highways. Therefore only these roadways can be adopted through the Iowa Adopt-A-Highway Program.

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Frequently asked questions

How do I sign up?

Request your permit online
The system will first require you to create a username and password for the permitting system.

  • Requestors must be at least 21 years of age.
  • The request form will ask for general sponsor/group information and allow you to make a first pick for a desired location.
  • Your local Adopt-A-Highway representative will review your request and work with you on final adoption location, sign text, and other details.
  • There will be a signed agreement that will indicate the approval and terms of adoption.


What are the responsibilities for adoption?

Sponsors will be expected to perform at least two trash pickups on their adopted segment per year, for a minimum of two years.

Sponsors must adhere to our safety guidelines, which include the use of high-visibility vests, proper footwear, and adult supervision of any minors.

What is a pickup day usually like?

Before the pickup, you will need to contact and visit your local DOT maintenance garage to pick up enough safety vests and trash bags for your group.

On pickup day, make sure all attendees are wearing safety vests, sturdy footwear, gloves, and long pants. Long sleeves are also recommended. Park vehicles off the highway if possible, and make sure attendees and vehicles are not disturbing traffic. Plan your walk to face into oncoming traffic if possible and avoid approaching the pavement when cars are coming. Stay 10 feet from the pavement.

A 2-mile adoption may not seem like a far distance to walk, but roadsides that have not been adopted in a while may take several hours to pick up accumulated litter. Give yourself more time than you think especially your first time out. Make sure attendees have enough water and keep a keen eye on hazardous weather, such as thunderstorms or excessive heat, and cut your day short if conditions deteriorate.

When do we do our trash pickups?

Scheduling your trash pickups is generally between the sponsor and the local Adopt-a-Highway representative. The DOT just wants to make sure there will not be any work in that area that might interfere with the adoption or cause extra distractions for road users. Adoptions should take place after sunrise and be completed before sunset. Two pickups per year is the minimum, but more frequent cleanups are allowed.

What do we do with the trash we collect?

Bags of trash should be piled by your adoption sign or other location agreed with your Adopt-A-Highway representative, and the DOT will dispose of them. Sponsors may take any found items or recyclables if they wish.

What do we do if there are items too big or hazardous to pick up?

Do not attempt to move items that pose a safety risk. Notify your Adopt-A-Highway representative of the location and description of the materials and we will handle it.

Do I get a sign?

Maybe. For eligible sponsors, signs featuring our state flower, the wild rose, may be erected by the Iowa DOT at no cost to the sponsor. In areas with many signs or very rough terrain, AAH signing may not be possible. Signs will not be placed for political candidates, elected officials, or entities that would be considered partisan or inflammatory. Signs will not be placed for one-day pickup permits. Signing is not a requirement for AAH sponsorships. Sponsors may elect to adopt a highway section without signing.

What can my sign say?

Any sign should indicate only the sponsor’s name. If the sponsor's name is too long to fit on the sign, some editing and abbreviation are allowed. Sponsors may be individuals, groups, or businesses. Slogans, memorials, titles, or other phrases are not allowed. Examples:

Not allowed: “In Memory of John Doe”
Allowed: “Friends and Family of John Doe”

Not allowed: “Go Bobcats!”
Allowed: “Bobcats Athletic Boosters”

Not allowed: “Built Ford Tough”
Allowed: “Midtown Ford”

Not allowed: “Jane Doe, Noon Kiwanis President”
Allowed: For this, a decision must be made who is the real sponsor. Is Jane Doe doing the adoption herself? In that case, the sign should read “Jane Doe”. If it is the Noon Kiwanis members doing the work, it should be “Noon Kiwanis”.

Can my sign feature our logo?

What if I just want to pick up trash once?

The DOT offers single-day “special event” permits that work well for groups that would like to make a positive impact, but can’t commit to an ongoing adoption. The work is only for a single scheduled day, but otherwise, other aspects are similar: sign up on the AAH website, work with your Adopt-A-Highway representative for location, scheduling, and supplies, perform your pickup, and leave the bags in a designated area. No signs will be issued for single-day events.

Our group has an existing adoption but the person who used to arrange all the details has left the organization. What do we do now?

Contact the Iowa DOT Maintenance Bureau at 515-239-1824 and we can look up your organization and reconnect you to your local DOT Adopt-A-Highway representative, resend copies of your adoption contracts, etc. Your group will need to provide us with new contact information for your adoption.


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