Welcome to your new, cleaner state highway -- brought to you by MegaCorp., Inc.
A new program, recently launched by the state Department of Transportation, would use corporate sponsorships to pay for cleanup crews along some of Colorado's most littered stretches of highway.
But the idea is drawing criticism from at least one organization, Scenic Colorado, because it would allow sponsors to have their names and logos displayed on as many as 700 new signs along the sponsored road segments.
Scenic Colorado says the signs would basically be billboards, which the organization considers eyesores and often refers to as "litter on a stick."
In other words, the program would simply trade one form of litter for another, says Larry Barrett of Colorado Springs, the organization's president.
"Having 700 billboards is worse, because the litter is not that bad," Barrett said.
But the CDOT official in charge of the program, Maintenance Superintendent Ed Fink, says it could enable the state to tackle an "obvious" litter problem without spending taxpayer money. And the signs, he said, are not "billboards."
"My personal feeling is I'd much rather trade all that trash for a sign now and then," Fink said.
Similar programs have already been implemented in several other states, Fink said.
A sign every mile
The Transportation Department is in the process of selecting a contractor to run the program, which Fink said would not generate any new expenses or revenue for the department.
The contractor would hire cleanup crews, which would pick up litter along each sponsored highway segment on a weekly or biweekly basis. To pay for the cleanup, the contractor would sell sponsorships.
CDOT has identified 383 miles of road to be included in the program, mostly along major highways in Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo.
Sponsorship signs would measure 42 inches by 54 inches.
The Transportation Department already has an "Adopt-A-Highway" program, through which volunteers can sign up to do period cleanups and are recognized with slightly smaller signs. That program will likely continue, but it isn't enough, said Stacey Stegman, a CDOT spokeswoman. Moreover, the volunteer program is limited to areas with relatively low traffic volumes, for safety reasons, Stegman said.
Never heard of it
A CDOT document seeking companies to bid on the program indicates that Colorado Gov. Bill Owens fully supports the plan. "He intends to send letters to business leaders and owners in Colorado stating his support for this program," the document states. "Additionally, he has offered the use of the Governor's Mansion for a 'kick-off session' in order to encourage corporate participation."
Local officials, meanwhile, have said they were not consulted on the program, which was initiated through a Transportation Department policy directive. Marcy Morrison, mayor of Manitou Springs, said she hadn't heard about it until contacted by the Independent.
"That's the part that's somewhat troubling to me," Morrison said.
Barrett also said the proposal should be subject to a public process.
Manitou Springs, Colorado Springs and El Paso County all have ordinances limiting the number of new billboards that can be erected. Though CDOT says the sponsorship signs are not billboards, Fink said the department would be sensitive to local ordinances.
While she opposes billboards in general, Morrison said smaller signs of recognition might be acceptable if they help reduce trash along the highways.
"There's no question in my mind that the litter problem is extensive," Morrison said.
Proposed Colorado Springs locations for corporate-sponsored litter control:
On Interstate 25, from County Line Road to Midway, 44 miles in length
On Highway 83, from I-25 to Highway 105, 26 miles in length
On Highway 24, from Marksheffel Road to Cave of the Winds Road, 15 miles in length
On Highway 94, Curtis Road to Highway 24, 8 miles in length
SOURCE: Colorado Department of Transportation