This July 4th weekend marks the end of operation for 19 of Virginia’s 42 public highway rest stops, a move that will save the state $9 million.
The Wall Street Journal reports this isn’t limited to the Old Dominion; Louisiana, Vermont, Maine, and Colorado have shut down some public rest areas in recent months not only to save money, but because they’ve become obsolete – replaced by clusters of privately operated gas stations, fast food restaurants and motels right off the interstate. RV users even have the option of overnighting at many of Wal-Mart’s 4000 parking lots nationwide.
Public rest stop advocates, such as the American’s Truckers Association and AAA, argue closures are a threat to safety. Fatigued drivers have more accidents.
Other incentives are also at work. The Association of Blind Merchants opposes the move because federal law grants them priority – about 600 of their members stock rest-area vending machines.
Federal law is also in the way of a less draconian solution. Virginia tried to privatize the soon-to-be-shuttered rest areas, but federal law prevents franchising directly on the Interstate Highway System.
Read more about the history of the public rest stop here.