With a final decision on the proposed closure of 19 rest areas expected soon, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is again calling on its Virginia members to pound the phones to their lawmakers to fight to keep these vital safety rest areas open.
On Friday, May 29, OOIDA sent out a Call to Action after the Virginia Department of Transportation submitted their final recommendation a week ago to shutter 19 rest areas to save approximately $9 million.
OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer also sent a letter to Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine on Thursday, May 28, expressing deep concern that the state seems focused more on cutting costs and its bottom line rather than highway safety.
“Highway safety should not be sacrificed over what is basically chump change to the transportation budget,” Spencer wrote in the letter. “The infinitesimal savings the commonwealth will realize from closing rest areas will be offset many times over by the loss of life and limb on the highways.”
Truckers know all too well there is already a shortage of truck parking for the amount of freight traffic in the state.
Gordon Hickey, press secretary for Gov. Kaine, told Land Line on Thursday that the governor has “tried on a number of occasions to add money to the transportation budget,” but has been “turned back” by the House of Delegates.
“So if there is no more income, then the only other option is to figure out ways to cut expenses and that’s what’s now before the Commonwealth Transportation Board,” Hickey said. “It’s not like there’s extra money around to keep rest areas open.”
Spencer said the rest areas “are not for luxury, but for safety” and that all efforts should be exhausted to keep them open for all drivers who use our interstate highways.
He added that phone calls from truckers to the governor’s office and lawmakers are needed now as the CTB is expected to make its final decision on the rest area issue on Thursday, June 18. The numbers to call are included in OOIDA’s CTA.
“They need to know that this would be a major blow to all drivers already struggling to find a parking spot when they need to take a break,” Spencer said.
– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer