The American Trucking Associations and the Virginia Trucking Association on Thursday, Jan. 21, commended Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s leading of the Commonwealth Transportation Board to begin reopening 19 safety rest areas and welcome centers. The board this week voted to reverse its 2009 decision to reduce the number of state safety rest areas and welcome centers from 42 to 23. All areas will reopen by April 15.
“Closing these rest areas last year potentially decreased highway safety for both the motoring public and truck drivers alike,” says Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “As a former governor, I understand the difficult budget challenges that Virginia faces, but I was deeply concerned that safety rest areas were the wrong place to cut funds.” Graves was elected to two terms as governor of Kansas.
ATA and VTA objected to last year’s closings because of a severe shortage of truck parking. Virginia’s previous administration responded by lengthening the maximum parking time and adding 225 truck parking spaces at the 23 areas that were not closed. “The trucking industry is very pleased with Governor McDonnell’s additional decisions to maintain the additional spaces that were created and to extend the parking hours at all 42 areas,” Graves says.
McDonnell plans to personally welcome travelers to the first rest area reopening in February. The gates at closed areas will come down after workers reconnect power and water, stock traveler information centers, clean the facilities, install vending machines and restore the grounds. VDOT will use $3 million from its maintenance reserve fund to operate the facilities until June 30, and will identify long-term funding during revisions of budget this spring, a state spokesman says. The state also plans to improve the rest areas and welcome centers to make them more attractive and inviting.
“The darkened rest stops … left truckers and families without safe and secure areas at which they could get a break from the road, increasing the potential for accidents,” says McDonnell, who also noted that closing the safety rest areas “negatively impacted public safety” as well as tourism and economic development. McDonnell credited Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton and the Transportation Board for reversing the closings.
“We applaud Governor McDonnell for taking these steps to help prevent driver fatigue and provide safe, secure parking spaces for truck drivers to comply with federal hours-of-service regulations,” says Dale Bennett, VTA president and CEO.
A map of the reopened rest areas is available at www.virginiadot.org/news/resources/Statewide/repopen_Map_011510.pdf.