AASHTO Asks DOT To Circumvent Federal Law

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) may want the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to circumvent federal law and allow commercial rest areas but the reality is, laws passed by Congress cannot be circumvented or waived by federal agencies.


AASHTO last week recommended that DOT work to advance rest area commercialization despite its prohibition under current federal law. AASHTO made the recommendations in response to a DOT initiative requesting ways to streamline current regulations.


AASHTO urged DOT to consider circumventing federal law under the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) ”Special Experimental Project-15″ (SEP-15) program; authorizing commercial rest areas at Interstate Highway interchanges and allowing footpaths between interstate rest areas and commercial facilities located next to the existing rest area property.


Two years ago, the states of Oregon, Washington and California submitted a SEP-15 application to FHWA seeking to commercialize rest areas along I-5 with electric charging infrastructure, food and other services under the same SEP-15 program. NATSO, representing the truck stop and travel plaza industry, wrote to FHWA saying the SEP-15 program does not give the agency the authority to waive federal law. The Partnership to Save Highway Communities will once again clarify for AASHTO that laws passed by Congress cannot be circumvented or waived by federal agencies.  


The fact is, alternative solutions exist for cash-strapped states seeking ways to generate revenue. And they don’t threaten the livelihood of thousands of Interstate-based businesses that supply jobs and tax revenues to local communities nationwide.


Just last week Virginia lawmakers passed a bill allowing prison inmates to maintain state rest areas. The law goes into effect July 1.

Leave a Reply