Why We Must Act
Highway communities rely on travelers from the Interstate.
Imagine that you’re cruising down an Interstate highway. As your stomach growls in hunger, you see a rest area selling food on the shoulder. Would you stop at that rest area, or pull off the nearest exit to buy lunch at a hometown diner?
Most travelers wouldn’t exit.
They’d pull over, grab a bite and get back on the road. They wouldn’t spend time or money in the small towns off the highway that need tourists and travelers to survive.
Federal law strengthens highway communities.
That’s why Congress has prevented new rest areas from providing commercial services since 1960. Congress and local leaders want the Interstate highway system to strengthen the country by bringing new customers into America’s small towns.
Thanks to that law, nearly 2.2 million people are employed at more than 97,000 businesses along our Interstate highway system.
Some state governments want to compete with local employers.
Some cash-strapped states now want to overturn this long-standing law. They want to cash in by selling food, fuel or other services at rest areas on the right-of-way.
Shops, restaurants and other employers at the exits can’t hope to compete with state-run, virtual monopolies right on the median. As a result, proposals to “commercialize” rest areas:
Pro-employment alternatives exist.
States have alternatives to eroding the federal law that protects highway communities. The Interstate Oasis Program is one example of a program that would strengthen, rather than threaten, communities near highway exits. By helping attract travelers to local, private businesses that qualify as “oases,” states can provide safe and secure havens for tourists right in our highway communities.