Archive for June, 2011

Sen. Kirk Releases Commercial Rest Area Bill; Opposition Gains National Attention

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) last week unveiled a bill overturning the federal prohibition on commercial rest areas and expanding public private partnerships (3Ps) nationwide. The bill, which has not yet been formally introduced, seeks to permit states to sell food and fuel from interstate rest areas, as well as removes federal restrictions on 3Ps in an effort to grant states greater flexibility in generating transportation revenues. It also allocates funds from those 3P projects to develop additional ones.

The Partnership to Save Highway Communities issued a press statement criticizing Sen. Kirk’s bill, saying it would pull the rug out from under the nation’s interstate-based fast food franchisees, convenience stores, gas stations and truck stops at a time when the businesses are just starting to see signs of recovery from the recession. 

The Partnership’s press statement garnered national media coverage from the Wall Street Journal and America’s Radio News Network as well as industry trade publications. In “Last Exit for Roadside Businesses?” The Wall Street Journal cited a recent study by Virginia Tech that estimated interstate-based businesses would lose $55 billion annually and sales at independent gas stations and restaurants would be cut in half if states are allowed to commercialize rest areas. The newspaper is working on a second article for the print edition.

Partnership Opposes Administration Proposal That Would Open Door to Commercialization

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Several members of the Partnership to Save Highway Communities will issue a letter to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works as well as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee urging them to strongly oppose a provision in the Obama Administration’s draft transportation legislation that would allow state governments to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure at rest areas and charge a fee for it.

The letter, signed by NATSO, the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA), the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA), says allowing electric vehicle charging infrastructure at rest areas would effectively roll-back the 50-year prohibition on rest area commercialization.

The organizations, representing more than 160,000 fuel retailers nationwide, said fuel retailers already are investing in electric vehicle charging stations. However, if state governments preempt consumer demand for this new technology, they will effectively destroy the incentive for private sector investment.

The fuel retailers strongly oppose the inclusion of any provision in the transportation reauthorization legislation to allow electric vehicle charging infrastructure at rest areas, and are requesting that this proposal not be included in the legislation.

The Fuel retailers said they have invested heavily along the nation’s interstate system and have developed the most accessible and convenient locations for travelers to refuel their vehicles as they travel throughout the United States. As vehicles and fuels have changed over the last 100 years, the fuel industry has evolved to meet the needs of their customers. As the next generation of vehicles emerge, fuel retailers will continue to serve their customers and provide energy of all kinds to meet the needs of consumers, the groups said.  

NATSO Opposes Rest Area Commercialization at Congressional Roundtable

Monday, June 6th, 2011

At a Congressional roundtable held last week, NATSO, the national association representing America’s truckstops and travel plazas and a member of the Partnership to Save Highway Communities, spoke in opposition to suggestions by proponents of public-private partnerships that rest area commercialization is a viable solution to budget woes suffered by state DOTs, as well as a business opportunity for the private sector.   

 

NATSO Director of Government Affairs Brad Stotler said allowing state governments to sell food and fuel from an advantageous location on the highway right-of-way would devastate businesses that for the last 50 years have operated under current laws and established locations at the highway exits. 

 

“The issue our coalition takes with rest area commercialization is that it will not increase the number of hamburgers or gasoline gallons sold, but simply transfer – because of the commercial rest areas advantageous location - the point of sale away from the competitive environment at highway exits, to the sole business entity who pays the state the largest amount of money to rent the location essentially on the shoulder of the highway,” Stotler said.

In our opinion, Congress privatized interstate services back in the 1960s when it prohibited commercial development at the rest areas.  Instead of allowing state highway departments to be in charge of deciding who should meet the needs of the motorist, Congress decided that this would be best done by the private sector – competing on a level playing field at the highway interchanges.”

The event, sponsored by Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) and the Business Coalition for Fair Competition (BCFC), provided a forum for business groups to discuss specific areas where the government is unfairly competing with the private-sector in regards to transportation and areas where the government could more effectively outsource functions to the private sector. 

 

Advocates for increasing public-private partnerships in transportation were also participants in the roundtable discussion.  The groups that promote tolling on new and existing highways are beginning to advocate for rest area commercialization.