Maryland reduces operating hours at many rest areas to save money

| 12/10/2009

In an effort to save money during these “challenging economic times,” the state of Maryland has recently enacted a new policy that reduces the amount of operating hours at many of its rest areas.

David Buck, spokesman for the State Highway Administration in Maryland, said “budgetary issues” are behind the recent decision to modify service hours at many of the state’s rest areas.

He said the move is expected to save the state more than $567,000 in operating costs, which include lighting, water, staffing and supplies. Buck added that the state’s Department of Tourism is responsible for staffing at the sites.

“The budgetary issues are leading us to do a lot of things we have never had to do before,” Buck told Land Line on Thursday, Dec. 10. “I know other states are in the same situation we are.”

One OOIDA member, Bob McMain, of Quakertown, PA, found out the hard way about Maryland’s new service-hour policy on Thursday, Dec. 9, when he was alerted by an electronic sign that the rest area he has stopped at in the past on U.S. 301 will only be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“I understand that times are tough and states are struggling to come up with money. But it is also tough on truck drivers who find out these rest areas we depend on to stop are going to be closed so we can’t stop and rest,” he told Land Line. “It’s disappointing because that’s a quiet one, nobody bothers you, and it’s clean.”

Buck said he realizes the new policy may inconvenience some out-of-area drivers who may not be aware of the new operating hours at these rest areas when planning their routes. However, he added that when the facilities are closed, gates will block off the rest areas at night so no one will be able to park on the lots because of “safety concerns.”

“We are not going to open up a parking lot without any lights, without any maintenance, and without any mowing – and still let people park there. That’s unsafe,” Buck said. “The only way we can save money by doing this is to be able to reduce those hours.”

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer