Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Privatize our Rest Stops.

According to the web news site insidenova, the Virginia Department of Transportation is facing a $2.6 billion shortfall, and in an effort to close that gap, the state agency is looking at the prospect of closing 25 of the states 41 rest areas.

What will happen to these rest areas if they are closed? Megan Svajda of the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association raises an ominous concern:

"If these rest areas were to close the only plan VDOT has for them is to board them up and close the ramps so drivers cannot get to them. [...] This leaves the buildings open to vandalism and this is not the image of Virginia we want to project to travelers from out of state."

Virginia Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer has an excellent idea; he wants to allow private companies to run Virginia’s rest stops. This would save taxpayers money, and keep the rest stops down Virginia’s highways open.

However, there is a problem with this idea, seems Uncle Sam says it's illegal. It is against Federal law to have a business right off a Federal Highway. Maryland and Pennsylvania can do it because they bought the highway from the Feds and turned it into a turnpike. Some have suggested that our Congressional delegation try to change Federal law to allow for privately run highway rest stops.

I always prefer the convenience of the rest stop. You can quickly use the restroom, get some food, get a state map(I don't yet have GPS), and in just a few hundred feet you are back on the highway.

I think the solution is to make changes to Federal law, and have private companies run the stops. Such a solution will benefit both taxpayers and motorists.

Picture by aaroads

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