Senate rejects rest area convenience sales

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The Partnership to Save Highway Communities on Tuesday, March 13, applauded the U.S. Senate for rejecting an amendment that it says would have jeopardized thousands of jobs and businesses. The Senate voted 86-12 against Amendment No. 1742 of the highway bill proposed by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to uphold a federal law prohibiting the sale of food, fuel and other convenience items from Interstate rest areas.

“This marks a major victory for the 97,000 highway-based businesses across America and the 2 million people they employ,” said Lisa Mullings, president and chief executive officer of NATSO and a member of the Partnership to Save Highway Communities. “This veto sends a clear message that state DOTs cannot fix their state budget problems on the backs of small businesses or at the expense of American jobs and local communities.”

More than 60 organizations opposed the amendment, which would have granted state governments the ability to set up shop directly along the interstate right-of-way. The partnership said such a move would have given states an advantage over the travel plazas, truckstops, gas stations, convenience stores and restaurants at the exit interchanges. Allowing commercial rest areas would have transferred sales away from the current competitive environment at highway exits to such a degree that many exit-based businesses would not have been able to survive, the partnership said.