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Four Va. rest areas reopened

The Virginia Department of Transportation reopened four rest areas on Interstate 81 on Wednesday, a first installment on the commitment by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) to reopen all 19 rest areas closed last year.

These are the four: I-81 North Rural Retreat, I-81 South Smyth, I-81 South New Market and I-81 North Radford. Here's a schedule for reopening the other areas and a map of their locations. The ones on I-95 in Dale City and on I-66 in Manassas are among those scheduled to reopen March 17. All are to be open by April 15.

The rest stops were closed to save $9 million a year. Virginia didn't have enough money to finance its transportation system, and it still doesn't. VDOT is going to use $3 million from its emergency maintenance reserve fund to operate the reopened areas for the rest of the fiscal year that ends June 30. Long-term funding must be found when VDOT revises its maintenance budget this spring.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 17, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Driving , Transportation Politics , highways  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Virginia Department of Transportation  
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Comments

Dr. G, it appears you meant to include a link to the schedule and the map, but no such link is present.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 17, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

It would appear that a driver's ability to take a leak whenever he/she wants is more important than K-12 education. I realize the amounts needed are different but priorities certainly seem to be skewed for our new governor.

Posted by: juliagraffam | February 17, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

But McDonnell wants to cut health and education spending.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 17, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

So having open rest stops is more important than education, health programs and paying workers? Seems a bit off to me.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/16/AR2010021605819.html?hpid=dynamiclead

Posted by: rkinnish | February 17, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

It is ironic that this article appears the same day as the one about McDonnell's big cuts.

But consider this: the benefit/cost ratio to opening rest areas is high. The cost to operate them is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of healtcare, schools, etc. And the benefit is high...people complained LOUDLY about them being closed and demanded their re-opening becuase they are a necessary safety feature of roadways for travelers that want to take breaks. They are also a congestion reliever, as all of that rest area traffic was diverted to local interchanges, and people would drive around for a while looking for a place to stop.

I fully support the re-opening of rest stops, and hope that the government will consider cutting un-necessary social programs that benefit those who do not want to work, instead of cutting essential government provided services (education, transportation, police, etc.).

Posted by: thetan | February 17, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

As a taxpaying Virgina citizen, I am happy they are re-opening the rest areas.

Also, the cuts in education are needed. Spending has gotten out of control.

Posted by: wpjunk | February 17, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: Thanks, 1995hoo, for pointing out the absence of the link. I went back into the posting and fixed that.

Posted by: Dr_Gridlock | February 17, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

The rest areas were closed because the General Assembly called Tim Kaine's bluff and the former governor had no other option than to close them. Both gubernatorial candidates said last year they would reopen them. Also, there has been an effort made to get a waiver to federal rules that prohibit a for-profit business from operating the rest areas. When the effort was made last year, Kaine wanted nothing to do with it (again, because his bluff was called). If they opened it up to some bidding, I'm sure that something low-impact (like Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts) would not mind locating there in exchange for keeping an eye on the bathrooms and making it revenue-neutral. Maybe the state could even make a small amount on it. Meanwhile, since travelers would still need to use local businesses for full meals and gasoline, the restaurants and stores at the nearby interchanges would not have much to complain about.

Posted by: ValleyCaps | February 17, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Or, f0ck you McDonald's!

Posted by: member5 | February 17, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I still can't believe it costs $500,000 a year to operate a bathroom and a parking lot.

Posted by: coryanderx | February 17, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

First, the rest stops in Virginia suck. It's not like the Chesapeake House in Maryland or the rest stops on I-95 in Delaware and NJ; or the rest stops heading west in PA and OH. They only had bathrooms and vending machines. No gas stations, restaurants, mechanics or convenient stores. I don't see how it's a safety issue. You can sleep in your car at the crappy "rest stops" or sleep at a McDonalds off almost every stop on major freeways.

It's funny that Virginians care more about filthy toilets and $2 chips than their kids' education.

Posted by: mmurphy6 | February 17, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Just to note, the Chesapeake House and the NJ Turnpike travel stops are allowed to operate as they do because those were toll roads rather than interstates built with federal funds. To allow commercial businesses at the rest areas requires a waiver from the federal government.

Posted by: ValleyCaps | February 17, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

I'd feel safer at a Taco Bell.

Posted by: fireball72 | February 17, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

First, the rest stops in Virginia suck. It's not like the Chesapeake House in Maryland or the rest stops on I-95 in Delaware and NJ; or the rest stops heading west in PA and OH. They only had bathrooms and vending machines. No gas stations, restaurants, mechanics or convenient stores. I don't see how it's a safety issue. You can sleep in your car at the crappy "rest stops" or sleep at a McDonalds off almost every stop on major freeways.

It's funny that Virginians care more about filthy toilets and $2 chips than their kids' education.

------------------------------------------

It must be some Southern/trailer park/neocon complex. Bob McDonald's is really on a roll to undo everything Tim Kaine did and return the state to it's ultra-conservative Old Virginny roots. I'm guessing next he will raise the Confederate flag over the state house.

The Chesapeake and Maryland House rest stops on 95 in MD are the best I've been in. And in New Jersey they pump your gas for you!

Posted by: TheMarylander | February 17, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

"The Chesapeake and Maryland House rest stops on 95 in MD are the best I've been in. And in New Jersey they pump your gas for you!"

Why would you WANT someone to pump your gas for you? They smack the gas cap against the car and in general aren't particularly careful.

Anyway, as has already been stated, the SERVICE AREAS in Maryland and New Jersey are different from the REST AREAS in Virginia and elsewhere. The service areas on the toll roads were grandfathered in when those roads were made Interstates, as one of the conditions of receiving federal Interstate funding is that there be no commercial establishments on the road.

Setting all that aside, the BEST rest area/service area I've ever visited is on the New Hampshire Turnpike, where they have, on each side of the road, a rest area that consists of a large state liquor store.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 17, 2010 9:08 PM | Report abuse

OK my computer have given me a widow, but deal with rest stop 1st. How much did suffer just the thought of closing rest areas in a state. Does this ring any bells to anyone out there, that the tunnel to our future is at a slightly small outlet, but still hope for a rest at the end of things. The cost for having people falling asleep on the road from traveling for personal or bussiness reason is just to weathey to concure. I DROVE for cenral refrigerated trucking, for only 8 month and been a truck driver all my life, and VA is the last state that should ever thinking of such crumb of idea to close 1 rest area. The condition of where my urine goes is the least of my worries when i pull over to just come back to planet earth or releive myself, when i think about just a stop being there when i need one and the security of a rest area. This is just a crust of the conflict for now, fix it while its still in easy reach, let it go and move on to biger problems like schools, collages security, commenwealth, construction, upcoming power plants, immagration ect. U.S. is all U.S. have lets keep moving foward please, its not that hard. We whast more energy making problems then fixing them in this country for little more than half its little life. Till Next Time

Posted by: hemidave | February 18, 2010 7:02 AM | Report abuse

Who is Bob McDonald? Is he part of McDonald's? Why would McDonald's want more rest stops to take away business from themselves?

Posted by: member5 | February 18, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Don't know why I'm acknowledging the troll...

Bob McDonald is the name of one of the two regular National Anthem singers at Capitals games.

Posted by: 1995hoo | February 18, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

1995hoo said it correctly....Service areas were grandfathered in, around 1960 or so. No new Service areas on interstates opened after that point, which is when most of the free interstates opened.

A congressional waiver would be needed to allow any commercial establishment to open on the interstates with direct access. Congress will not give the waivers, because the truck-stop lobbies have a very good lobby on K Street apparently.

Posted by: thetan | February 18, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Frank Wolf was working on getting the waiver but Kaine was not interested in GOP help/muddling when he wanted to close the rest areas to make a point.

Posted by: ValleyCaps | February 18, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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