The Minnesota Department
of Transportation could close most of its rest areas unless
the Legislature agrees to privatizing rest area operations.
MnDOT has proposed
closing most of its rest areas in its efforts to meet its
$42 million annual budget reductions, MnDOT Districts Operation
Director Bob Winter recently told the House Transportation
The proposal recommends
closing most, or all, non-interstate and even some interstate
rest areas to meet the budget target. Although MnDOT has
not specified which rest areas will be closed, there are
at least 42 non-interstate rest areas.
Currently, the state
operates 77 Class I and II rest areas, including 35 Class
I rest areas on an interstate, 18 Class I rest areas at
non-interstate locations ad 24 Class II rest areas at non-interstate
locations. Class I rest areas are full-service, year-round
operations, while Class II rest areas have limited facilities
and generally are operated seasonally.
indicates the rest area closures would save the state around
$2 million a year. The department's budget cuts are part
of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's effort to fix the state's $4.2 billion
rest areas isn't considered a core mission for the department,
which focuses on highway maintenance and construction,” Winter
Although MnDOT's budget
proposal is not considered a legislative bill, it still
must be affirmed by the Legislature.
The department is
seeking alternatives to closing rest areas, says MnDOT
spokeswoman Sonya Pitt. She specifically mentioned a Senate
bill introduced April 1 by Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan,
that would protect the department's partnerships with cities
and organizations who currently assist in operating rest
SF1355 would allow
MnDOT to lease rest areas to local governments, private
companies and nonprofit organizations.
Similar proposals – HF1414
and HF1446 – have been introduced in the House.
--by Rene Tankersley,