Last week a new bill was introduced in Congress that would allow restaurants and convenience stores in interstate rest areas.
Commercialization of Rest Areas Could Generate Revenue for States
The bi-partisan bill was introduced by Indiana Representative Jim Banks and Connecticut Representative Joe Courtney. The bill’s supporters say that allowing the commercialization of rest areas could be key to keeping them open. According to Courtney, “This legislation will finally provide state governments with the option to enter into public-private partnerships to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of highway rest stops while providing improved amenities to the public.” Courtney and Banks say that states would have the option to use revenue generated by the rest stop commercialization to improve infrastructure.
Under current laws, it is illegal to commercialize any rest area on an interstate developed after 1956. These laws were designed to protect the interests of truck stops, gas stations, and restaurants located near highways.
NATSO Says Bill Is Bad For Small Businesses
The trade organization National Association of Truck Stop Operators is strongly opposed to the proposed legislation. They argue that commercializing rest areas will reduce tax revenue for states and result in significant job losses. NATSO also says that the bill would force many small off-highway businesses to close down.
The Rhode Island Trucking Association’s Chris Maxwell supports the bill as it would help truckers find parking: “This would take our current rest areas and open them up to retail, and in our case expanded truck parking throughout the country, and really give us the opportunity to promote the state through real welcome stations.“