Archive for June, 2012

Ohio Residents and Business Owners Say Commercial Rest Areas a Bad Idea

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

The residents and business owners of Ohio’s Hocking County know a bad idea when they see it.

The Ohio Department of Transportation held a public meeting at the Hocking College Energy Institute early this week to discuss its plan to explore the commercial development of certain rest areas.

Citizens and business owners reportedly expressed strong criticism of the plan, including its impact on tourism, local business, the environment and traffic.

According to an article that appeared in the Columbus Dispatch, meeting attendees are especially worried that shops and restaurants at the rest stops could hurt nearby businesses.

Furthermore, Executive Director of Hocking Hills Tourism Association Karen Raymore said commercializing the rest areas would be extremely detrimental to the visitors, according to an article published on NPR.

The irony is, ODOT doesn’t seem to care what its residents have to say.

Despite claims that ODOT plans to listen to all concerns as its holds a series of public meetings statewide, officials plan to hold a meeting June 28 in Columbus to accept bids from possible businesses to operate commercial rest areas.

The people of Ohio have spoken and they don’t want commercial rest areas.

ODOT should listen to what its voting constituents have to say and act accordingly.

Tolls Bad for Business

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

New details continue to emerge in Virginia about plans to toll Interstate-95 under a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) pilot program.

But as Virginia considers how best to grease its own pockets, the state is ignoring the ill effects that tolls will rain down on businesses operating along the interstate.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said recently in public meetings that it is currently seeking to install one tolling collection site in Sussex County between exits 20 and 24. VDOT said the state thinks it can generate $155 million in tolls in the first six years by charging $4 for cars and about $12 for trucks. To mitigate toll diversion, the state said it plans to add additional toll booths at exits 17, 20, 24, and 31. VDOT said it would charge $2 for cars, and about $6 for trucks both exiting and entering the I-95 corridor.

Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) met last week in Richmond to discuss VDOT’s plan.

Virginia lawmakers should take note that tolling interstates makes it less attractive for highway users to exit the interstate and patronize the businesses that create a local tax base for communities and employ Virginia residents.

And as a significant number of drivers divert onto secondary roads to avoid the tolls, businesses that invested top dollar for their properties based on proximity to the highway will see big declines in sales.

As interstate businesses take a hit on business, it ultimately hurts local governments, too, which depend on their tax revenues.

Virginia should abandon its plan to toll Interstate-95 and instead focus on helping private businesses thrive.

ODOT Should Compare Apples to Apples

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

In its latest bid to raise funds for state transportation projects, the Ohio Department of Transportation is seeking to commercialize non-interstate rest areas.

ODOT thinks that because the state generates between $4 million and $5 million dollars annually from privately operated service plazas on the Ohio Turnpike that it can do the same on other roads.

But ODOT is comparing apples and oranges.

Commercialized rest areas on the Ohio Turnpike operate from an advantaged location that other private businesses are barred from accessing. As a result, ODOT’s commercial rest areas on the Turnpike enjoy the privilege of high traffic volumes and zero competition.

Furthermore, since private businesses already are meeting the needs of the traveling public, putting the state in direct competition with them will further carve up the limited dollars spent at businesses already struggling against lower traffic counts.

Considering these two factors, Ohio is unlikely to generate anywhere near $4 million by commercializing rest areas along non-interstates.
ODOT recently floated its idea to more than 30 businesses and affiliated trade groups when it issued a Request for Information.

In comments filed with the agency, NATSO, which represents truckstops and travel plazas nationwide, said it understands the significant budgetary challenges facing the agency but strongly opposes the commercialization of rest areas.

“Commercializing rest areas and allowing states to get in the business of selling food and fuel may seem like an easy way for the state DOT to generate revenue,” NATSO wrote. “But in reality, it represents government intrusion into the private sector.”

ODOT should reconsider its latest idea and seek alternative solutions that don’t jeopardize existing private businesses for little or nothing in return.