Ohio DOT Intrudes on the Private Sector

Despite the Senate’s overwhelming rejection of Senator Portman’s Amendment to the highway bill, Ohio Transportation officials continue to pursue commercial rest areas as a means of generating revenue for the state.

Most recently, ODOT issued a request for information (RFI) seeking input on an upcoming proposal to commercialize non-interstate rest areas across the state.

In its RFI, ODOT said it would seek to construct service plazas at 26 non-interstate rest areas to provide fuel, food, lodging and other travel-related services. ODOT plans to have all the plazas developed, financed and operated through a lease agreement.

In an interview with the “Cleveland Plain Dealer,” scheduled to appear soon, NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings said ODOT’s proposal to construct commercial rest areas along non-interstate routes represents yet another ill-conceived attempt by the state to compete with small-town businesses, threatening jobs and local tax dollars, as a way to fix state budget shortfalls.

“State financial budget problems are not a burden that should be transferred to local business owners and local communities,” Mullings said. “Yet this is exactly what the Ohio Department of Transportation is planning to do.”

Just last month the United States Senate rejected efforts to commercialize interstate rest areas. The amendment by Ohio Senator Rob Portman was defeated 86-12.

ODOT’s new plan isn’t any different than the old plan. It represents nothing more than government intrusion into the private sector at the expense of small business, the jobs they provide and the money they pour into their local towns.

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