In comparison to the rest of the country, the Texas economy is booming, but that doesn't change the state government's frugality...

Last week the Texas Transportation Commission approved a rule change enabling the Texas Department of Transportation to accept private donations to pay for roadside upkeep. That work may also include maintenance at safety rest areas and litter control. The sponsorship program, expected to launch this spring, could provide up to $3.5 million annually in additional revenue.

Why don't more states work this way?

“We applaud TxDOT for thinking creatively and discovering new ways to improve our state and save Texans money,” said Chairman Ted Houghton, Texas Transportation Commission.

“Our roadsides and safety rest areas are some of the first sights for millions of out-of-state travelers," Houghton said, "and as such, we must continue to maintain them and uphold the beauty of the Lone Star State.”

“Partnering with the private sector just makes sense as we seek new ways to address the state’s ongoing funding challenges,” said Phil Wilson, TxDOT executive director. “This is another tool to establish more partnerships that help us pay for these services and could reduce the cost of roadside maintenance around the state.”

With the approval of the sponsorship program, TxDOT can now accept and acknowledge private-sector donations for various highway-related services including litter pick-up, mowing services, vegetation management and maintenance at the state’s travel information centers and safety rest areas.

All signs, which must meet federal guidelines, will acknowledge business and organizations along sponsored roadways. TxDOT will continue to manage highway maintenance services, but revenue generated from the sponsorship program will be used to offset the costs.

TxDOT currently oversees 78 safety rest areas and 12 travel information centers in Texas that could benefit from this program.