Connecticut rest areas targeted for closures, trimmed operations

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, February 11, 2016

Truckers say an effort at the Connecticut statehouse to shut down multiple rest areas on Interstate 84 would jeopardize public safety.

The closures of the Southington and eastbound Willington rest areas along I-84 and the welcome center in Westbrook along the Connecticut Turnpike are included in Gov. Dannel Malloy’s $19.8 billion state budget proposal.

The Joint Committee on Appropriations met early this week to discuss the governor’s budget-cutting plan, which would reduce spending at all state agencies by 5.75 percent for the coming fiscal year.

Also included in the proposed savings plan, HB5044, is a provision to cut back operations at 28 other state-operated rest areas. Specifically, operations would be trimmed from three shifts to two shifts.

Malloy’s administration says the state faces a $500 million shortfall. The rest area closures and cutbacks would save about $1.2 million.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut say closing down rest areas along the nearly 100-mile stretch of I-84 will create unnecessary risk to public safety and do very little to balance the state budget.

Mike Matousek, OOIDA director of state legislative affairs, wrote in testimony provided to the committee that commercial truck parking is a significant challenge for truck drivers nationwide.

“Rest areas generally provide access to facilities, such as running water, toilets, sinks and vending machines – and better protection from theft, vandalism, assault and worse,” Matousek said. “In terms of compliance, they allow drivers to comply with federal hours-of-service rest requirements for short and long periods of time.”

While the exact impacts of closing rest areas on I-84 are unknown, Matousek said it is clear the move would unnecessarily put truck drivers and the traveling public at risk, effectively creating more issues than it’s intended to solve.

MTAC President Joe Sculley added in testimony provided to the panel that shutting down rest areas to save a few dollars would send a message that Connecticut does not support truck drivers.

“Now is not the time for Connecticut to be sending a message that they are unfriendly to business, especially a business that is often referred to as ‘the backbone of the economy.’”

Sculley pointed out to lawmakers there is already a shortage of truck parking in the state. He noted if truck drivers know there are even fewer places to take their mandated breaks, they could simply decide to alter their routes through the state or avoid the state entirely.

The committee is scheduled to hold additional hearings on the governor’s state budget proposal.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Connecticut, click here.

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