- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

The Beltway is now taking sponsorships.

Businesses now can sponsor highway crews to clean up sections of the Capital Beltway under the Maryland State Highway Administration’s newly expanded Corporate Sponsor-A-Highway Program.

In exchange, the business gets a sign on its stretch of the highway. Those signs have begun popping up over the past month. Almost 230,000 cars a day pass by the sponsored area with the greatest amount of traffic, near the Route 50 exit in Landover.

The state is hoping to shave $1 million off the $8 million it spends each year on highway litter pickup so that it can focus on other work, such as road maintenance and guardrail repairs.

Maintenance crews “are on continuous litter sweeps on the Beltway,” said Kellie Boulware, spokeswoman for the Maryland State Highway Administration. “But they are dedicated to other duties, as well.”

Six companies have signed up to sponsor 14 segments of the Beltway. Thirty-three segments are approved for sponsorship, from the Interstate 95/495 interchange in College Park to the Andrews Air Force Base area, with plans to add segments near the new Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge when construction is complete, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration.

Marjam Supply Co., a building-supply company in New York, was familiar with the program when the Beltway sponsorships became available last month. The company already sponsors segments of highway in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and other parts of Maryland. The decision to add a mile on the Inner Loop in Oxon Hill was easy.

“We are looking to expand in the area,” said Mark Munson, a regional manager for Marjam. “It’s a great way to get name recognition.”

The Adopt-A-Highway Maintenance Corp., a litter-pickup contractor for the state, seeks corporate sponsors to fund the litter removal. When pursuing a sponsor, Adopt-A-Highway reminds companies of the benefits of sponsorship: The roads around the business are clean, the company gets a sign that many motorists see, and the company receives recognition as playing a positive role in the community.

Adopt-A-Highway signs led Joan Goldsmith, vice president of Safford Lincoln Mercury in Silver Spring, to the program.

“We wanted to get our name out on a grass-roots level,” Mrs. Goldsmith said. “We are very pleased with the sign, and we are very pleased with some of the comments we have received from some of our customers.”

A typical maintenance crew, consisting of a driver and three litter collectors, takes two to six hours to clean a one-mile segment of roadside. The crew heads out early in the morning “so we can finish up our day before rush hour begins,” said Adopt-A-Highway President Jason Stern.

The content of the litter they collect varies widely — including tires, cigarette butts, shoes and metal pipes. Wrappers, bottles and cans are common, while wallets are found rarely and are returned promptly.

Even if littering is not intentional, it can be prevented by something as simple as covering an open truck bed. “Our role is to keep the roadside clean,” Mr. Stern said. “I would love to be out of work if the sides of the road were clean.”

The state is responsible for collecting litter along roads with no corporate sponsor.

“Imagine the time it takes, especially with the Beltway,” Ms. Boulware said.

That is time and effort, she said, that could be better used cutting grass, trimming trees, repairing guardrails and filling potholes.

Maryland uses corporate sponsorships, maintenance crews and prison inmates to keep its highways clean. Selected inmates are trained to collect litter on roadsides and are paid by the Maryland State Highway Administration to clean the areas that the administration selects.

The Corporate Sponsor-A-Highway Program tryout period is slated to end in September 2007, when the state will decide whether to continue the program.

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