States make push to keep rest areas open

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, June 05, 2013

State lawmakers around the country are taking steps to address concerns about adequate funding to keep rest areas open.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law a bill that allows sponsorship on state-owned assets, including the state’s nine rest areas.

Previously HB386, the new law gives the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development the authority to charge fees for sponsorship signs on state-owned property.

The DOTD’s Shawn Wilson recently told a legislative panel that federal law authorizes states to provide sponsorships at rest areas.

“This bill will enable the state to take full advantage of federal opportunities to do sponsorships,” Wilson testified.

Wilson said rest areas would be “priced accordingly based on market assessment and what we see in other areas.” The revenue raised through sponsorships would stay with the rest areas.

Nearing passage at the New Hampshire statehouse is a bill that would authorize the state to pursue selling sponsorships or naming rights to the 16 state-operated rest areas.

Rep. Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, told lawmakers during recent discussion on the bill that the condition of the state’s rest areas gives the state a black eye. To make matters worse, he pointed out that many facilities aren’t even open.

“This is a critical situation in the state of New Hampshire. ... Even if it’s a small amount of money that keeps one facility open half the time, it’s worth trying,” Chandler testified. “This is a small step forward that could help immediately.”

HB635 would also set up a committee to study closed facilities.

Down the coast in New Jersey, the state Assembly voted unanimously to advance a similar effort that would give authority to reach sponsorship deals to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, Department of Transportation and South Jersey Transportation Authority.

“Offering sponsorship is an opportunity that would help business and industry in the state as well as relieve a burden on taxpayers,” stated Assemblyman Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex.

The bill – A3461 – awaits further consideration in the Senate.

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