Commercialized Rest Areas Not An Answer to State Budget Woes


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.

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