Archive for December, 2010

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.