Archive for the ‘Rest Areas’ Category

Interstate-based Businesses Eligible to Install Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Interstate-based businesses may be eligible to install electric vehicle charging stations under the  U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) “EV Project,”  which commenced installation of residential EV charging units in the state of Washington last week.  Nearly 15,000 commercial and residential electric vehicle charging stations in six states and the District of Columbia are expected to come online under the project that is funded by the DOE through a federal stimulus grant of $114.8 million in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  


Washington joins other EV Project regions in California, Oregon and Arizona with the installation of residential charging infrastructure that lay the groundwork for the deployment and installation of commercial charging stations. In addition to these states, the program includes Tennessee, Texas, and the District of Columbia.


Ecotality’s EV Project was designed to begin establishing a nationwide electric car charging infrastructure along the Interstate Highway System.  Cracker Barrel Old Country Store marked one of the first businesses to partner with Ecotality, announcing plans last fall to install 24 electric vehicle charging stations along a 425-mile stretch in Tennessee.


NATSO, a member of the Partnership to Save Highway Communities, supports the installation of electric car charging stations at private businesses rather than rest areas.


To find out more information and apply for a charging station to be installed at your business click here, and select the penultimate option: “I am a business owner who would like to have a charging station installed at my place of business.”



Commercialized Rest Areas Not An Answer to State Budget Woes

Monday, December 13th, 2010


Commercializing rest areas may appear to be a solution to state budget woes, but will devastate interstate businesses and drain cities and counties of needed tax revenues that fund local services, NATSO said last week at the meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).


NATSO Vice President of Government Affairs participated in a panel discussion on rest area commercialization at the NCSL Fall Forum in Phoenix, Ariz.  Alfano told the group that Congress created the ban on rest area commercialization in 1956 to encourage commercial development along the newly created Interstate Highway System.  That strategy has been a success, and today more than 95,000 businesses thrive at interstate exits across the United States.  By contrast, interstates with commercialized rest areas have 50 percent fewer businesses at the exits.  


She noted that truck parking is also impacted by commercialization.  Commercialized rest areas deter truckstops from locating along the interstates where they are found, and typically interstates dominated by commercialized rest areas have one-third fewer truck parking places.


“The business model of the commercialized rest area is one that relies on a constant turnover of customers,” Alfano told the conference. “It’s not one that caters to professional drivers, and the facilities offer few truck parking spaces and no driver amenities such as lounges and showers.”  She noted that the recent multi-million dollar redevelopment of the Delaware House, a commercialized rest area on I-95, only added a few truck parking spaces, for a total of 50.  Many truckstops offer 200 or more spaces for drivers.


She acknowledged the budget challenges faced by many states, and supported the suggestion made by panelist Kevin Biesty of the Arizona Department of Transportation, who said that states need to be allowed to use some of their federal dollars for rest area maintenance.

Private Business Welcomes Electric Car Charging Stations

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Restaurant chain Cracker Barrel announced plans this week to install 24 electric charging stations along a 425-mile stretch of the Interstate Highway in Tennessee.

Initially developed to cater to highway travelers, Cracker Barrel said the Electric Vehicle project fit with its business model of catering to highway motorists while allowing it to participate in a meaningful way in the nation’s explorations of energy independence.

Cracker Barrel’s initiative, which is set to kick off with 12 stations in Spring 2011, represents the latest effort in a growing push by the private sector to add fast charging stations along the nation’s highways.

Earlier this year, the Governors of Oregon, Washington and California signed an agreement pledging to work toward building a “Green Highway” along Interstate-5 on the West Coast. And in October, the Oregon Department of Transportation was awarded $700,000 in stimulus funds to pay for eight charging stations in a public-private partnership with ECOtality.

The Partnership to Save Highway Communities applauds these states for working in partnership with exit-based businesses by targeting existing commercial enterprises to install electric charging stations. We hope Washington and California will follow Oregon’s and Tennessee’s lead and develop similar innovative partnerships with exit businesses.

New Jersey Fuel Merchants Association Decries Commercial Rest Areas

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

The New Jersey Fuel Merchants Association became the latest industry stakeholder to take a strong stand against commercialized rest areas last week, issuing a letter to Gov. Christie decrying calls to lease state rest areas to private companies offering food, fuel and other services as a means of shoring up state budget gaps.

In its letter, FMANJ said while it supports Gov. Christie’s broad goal of finding ways to more efficiently deliver essential government services and save taxpayers money, commercialized rest areas monopolize travelers’ business and starve small enterprises like truckstops, fuel retailers and restaurants that currently thrive near the Interstate exits.

FMANJ’s battle to tamp commercialized rest areas represents just one example in what is a quickly growing trend among states struggling to balance their budgets amid the weak economy. States like Arizona, Virginia, California, New Mexico and Washington increasingly are eyeing setting up businesses on the interstate right of way as a revenue generator.

Congress banned this practice, known as commercialization, in 1960 as a means of fostering community and business development along the Interstate highway system. In recent years, some 95,000 businesses thrive nationwide as a result of this ban, employing nearly 2.2 million people.

Some states are seeking to overturn the law through the upcoming reauthorization of the highway funding bill. What these states fail to recognize, however, is that overturning the longstanding Federal law isn’t a quick fix to short term economic woes.

A University of Maryland Study shows commercializing rest areas devastates businesses and local communities. By operating at an unfair advantage directly along the Interstate right of way, commercial rest areas siphon customers from nearby businesses. Failing local businesses mean less jobs, while property and income taxes local municipalities use to fund schools, fire and police protection are transferred to state coffers.

In 2009, New Jersey was home to 1,867 exit-based businesses. Of these, more than 60 percent would directly compete with the state’s rest areas. According to the University of Maryland study, these competing businesses employ more than 19,500 people and contribute more than $14 million in local property taxes.

Commercial Rest Areas Devastate Local Communities

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

As a party with a clear interest in serving the needs of highway travelers, NATSO welcomed the Pew Institute’s recent examination of commercialized rest areas.

However, it’s imperative that state options to maintain highway safety and close gaping budget deficits be carefully considered from the perspective of all parties, especially the small towns that depend on traveler dollars.

The perception that adding food, fuel and other retail services to state rest areas is a silver bullet solution for closing huge budget deficits errs in regarding the option as a painless one.

There’s a reason Congress outlawed commercialization in 1960, and renewed it again and again during the ensuing 50 years. Research has shown that allowing states to develop and lease full-service rest areas along a highway would monopolize travelers’ business, starving the small enterprises, from truckstops to farm stands, which have sprouted near the exits.

A landmark study by the University of Maryland showed definitively that on sections of Interstate where commercial services are permitted at rest areas, nearly half as many exit-based businesses thrive. Nowhere is this demonstrated more dramatically than along Interstate-95, which runs through both Maryland and Virginia.

Maryland, which was grandfathered in and not subject to the prohibition, has two commercialized rest areas and only 201 businesses at the exit interchanges over 109 miles. Virginia, which does not have commercialized rest areas, has more than 858 exit-based businesses over 178 miles of I-95. Even taking into account the extra miles, the difference in commercial development along I-95 is striking, meaning more jobs, a healthier tax-base for local communities and more commerce for local communities and Virginians.

Adding commercial services to rest areas may add dollars to state coffers. But commercial rest areas merely redirect those revenues from town and county treasuries, which count on the property and income taxes from traveler-dependent businesses to provide essential services like sewer maintenance and police and fire protection. Reversing 50 years of federal policy would rob Small Town Peter to pay Statehouse Paul.

We also have to note that the dollars generated would hardly be the godsend the states suggest. Proceeds would amount to a few million dollars. But many of the states cited are facing budget deficits running to hundreds of millions, if not billions.

As much as we appreciate efforts to stimulate a dialogue, it is an incorrect assertion that commercializing rest areas would boost highway safety.

Studies have shown that truck drivers have fewer places to park and rest when states own and lease out rest areas along their highways. Like any other commercial landlord, states aim to maximize revenues by leasing space to big revenue-generators that can afford higher rents.

Parking spaces don’t fit that bill. On average, state-run facilities have two fewer parking spaces per mile than comparable operations located near the exits. Private, exit-based businesses provide more than 90 percent of all overnight parking.

HMSHost’s Contract With Delaware is Bad for Businesses and Consumers

Monday, June 28th, 2010

On Monday, June 28, the Delaware Department of Transportation reopened the Delaware Welcome Center Travel Plaza after a 9 month, $35 million renovation.  Food service vendor HMSHost will manage the state-sponsored facility for the next 35 years.  The facility is one of a handful of rest areas across the country permitted to offer commercial services under existing federal law. But its opening sends the wrong message to those states looking to overturn the ban on adding commercial services at rest areas as a means of fixing state budgetary woes.

Lisa Mullings, President and CEO of NATSO issued the following statement Monday morning regarding the reopening of the travel plaza:

“In discussing its 35-year contract with HMSHost Corp. to operate the Delaware Welcome & Travel Center, the state of Delaware has grossly exaggerated the benefits of this agreement and failed to inform local residents, businesses and consumers about the deal’s significant downside.

Contrary to claims that the facility will serve as an economic tool generating jobs and state revenue, the Delaware Travel Center represents nothing more than a monopoly that threatens to cripple the many businesses offering food, fuel and other retail services near the I-95 exit interchanges.

With direct access to highway motorists, the state now operates at a significant advantage over the businesses that depend on motorists exiting the Interstate. The 4.5 million visitors HMSHost claims it will service are 10 times what many local businesses would see in terms of visitors. This deal represents a classic example of government teaming up with big business to squeeze out small business.

While nearby businesses are left to flounder, consumers undoubtedly will pay hidden taxes in the form of higher costs for goods and services as the state seeks to recoup its investment.

Furthermore, the state of Delaware has said that beginning today it will balance its budget without regard for the needs of local communities. Local businesses typically pay more in local taxes than it will cost HMSHost to maintain the Travel Center. Without thriving businesses, local communities will lose jobs and the significant tax revenues that pay for public services like schools, police and fire departments.

Delaware’s so-called ‘best investment’ in reality rings the death knell for local communities.”

When Privatization Looks Awfully Similar to a Government Monopoly

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

By NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings

This week, I learned that the word “awful” used to mean “full of awe.” Somehow it changed into the exact opposite of its original meaning.

The term “privatization” could be destined for the same fate, at least when it comes to rest areas. Some states see privatized rest areas as a lucrative opportunity –- a business would pay the state for the right to sell food and fuel to drivers right on the interstate median or shoulder.

Rest area privatization sounds like a path to smaller government and free-market competition. So why is it that counties with commercial rest areas have half as many retail businesses, suggesting a less-competitive environment? Because rest area “privatization” isn’t really privatization at all.

True privatization:

  • Eliminates government operation of a business enterprise;
  • Involves transfer from the government to private sector;
  • Substitutes inefficient government with free-market competition;
  • Creates a greater net value for society through more choice and lower prices; and
  • Results in smaller government.

Privatization of rest areas, on the other hand:

  • Eliminates a government responsibility (maintaining rest areas)
  • By taking business away from the private sector
  • And transferring it to one business, greatly diminishing competition
  • Which reduces society’s total net value through higher prices and fewer choices;
  • And enables government to avoid politically-charged decisions about reducing government spending.

Though not operating the business at commercial rest areas, the government operates as a “silent partner.” The rest area’s location means the business has no real competition, and can charge higher prices than the same business could if it was competing on a level playing field. As a result, the rest area vendor can afford to pay the government a higher price, knowing it can recoup it from customers.

In turn, state politicians can avoid making decisions about spending cuts because they are able to effectively tax commercial rest area consumers. It’s ironic that privatization used to be defined by its potential to eliminate the bad effects of government-run enterprise. Now it is being used to create it.