Natso scores Bush plan to commercialize rest areas

| Tuesday, March 18, 2003

The Bush administration wants to commercialize the country’s rest areas, according to a proposed highway reauthorization bill obtained by Natso, the trade association representing America's travel plazas and truckstops.

The legislation would allow states to conduct rest area commercialization pilot projects, which would cause many interchange-based businesses such as truckstops and travel plazas, restaurants, motels, gas stations and convenience stores to close, Natso says.

Natso President and CEO William D. Fay said, "Natso will fight against this anti-business, anti-trucking, anti-community provision and lead a coalition campaign to ensure its defeat."

The administration says the provision is designed to increase the number of parking spaces for heavy trucks, yet the provision would have the opposite effect, according to Fay.

"Rest area commercialization will actually decrease – not increase – the number of available parking spaces," Fay said. "Truckstops and travel plazas at the interchanges provide 90 percent of this nation's truck parking. Rest area commercialization will close down many of these businesses, which in turn would create a severe truck parking shortage."

University of Maryland study

In 1997, University of Maryland researchers found interchange businesses would lose between 60 percent and 70 percent of sales if interstate commercialization were to occur, Natso said. Instead of choosing to stop at an interchange business, most motorists opt instead to use the commercialized rest area on the shoulder of the road. While the state might make more money, the tax base of local governments would shrink, Natso added.

"When the interstate highway system was created in 1956, community leaders feared that local businesses, jobs and their tax base would dry up as motorists and truckers bypassed their cities and towns. In response, Congress banned development on the Interstates themselves. Forty-seven years later, we can see the wisdom of that decision to protect communities. Over 60,000 businesses have sprung up at interchanges across America, serving the needs of highway users and providing jobs and taxes for counties, cities and towns," Fay said.

Fay said the American Trucking Associations and many other groups have historically opposed rest area commercialization.

"This proposal is particularly ill-conceived at a time when lawmakers are seeking ways to stimulate business growth and development to help our economy," he added.

The full text of the pro-commercialization provision is available on www.travelplaza.org.

Natso is the association of America's $42 billion travel plaza and truckstop industry. Founded in 1960, Natso represents the industry on legislative and regulatory matters; serves as the official source of information on the travel plaza and truckstop industry; provides education to its members; conducts an annual convention and trade show; and supports efforts to improve the business climate in which its members operate.

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