Wall Street Journal Highlights Issues Surrounding Rest Area Closures

The Wall Street Journal underscored the significant problems state governments are facing in maintaining highway rest areas amid budgetary shortfalls in a July 3 article titled “R.I.P: Budget Woes Spell Doom for Roadside Rest Stops.”

The article, written by WSJ reporter Mike Esterl, outlined how states like Virginia, Iowa and New Hampshire are pushing to close or commercialize rest areas. But resistance from rest-area defenders, including the National Association of Blind Merchants, AAA, and the American Trucking Associations, is gaining traction and curbing those efforts.

The Partnership to Save Highway Communities supports keeping interstate rest areas open. But it rejects the idea that commercializing rest areas to compete with private businesses is the only way to save them.

Already, several states have launched innovative programs to keep rest areas open without offering food and fuel as the only means of revenue generation.

The Interstate Oasis program, for example, was established by Congress in the 2005 highway reauthorization law and allows businesses operating at interstate highway exits to serve as de facto rest areas. Overseen by the Federal Highway Administration, the Oasis program ensures that participating businesses meet a set of minimum standards to participate. Oregon recently marked the first state in the nation to implement the program.

There are many options for preserving the delicate balance between the need for rest areas and the services offered by existing businesses at interstate exits. Allowing rest areas to compete with existing businesses ranks among the worst and ultimately would reduce services to highway travelers.

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