The Washington Post’s Marc Fisher asks a good question:
“Why is it, exactly, that Maryland House and Chesapeake House, the two facilities along I-95 between Baltimore and Delaware, exist while the rest stops on the Virginia side of the border offer nothing more than restrooms and a few vending machines?
The two Maryland facilities bring in $40 million a year in revenue; Virginia is hoping to save just $12 million by shutting 25 of its 41 rest stops. So instead of closing down the rest stations, why doesn’t Virginia privatize them and let gas stations and eateries bloom?”
Fisher goes on to answer the question by noting that the Maryland commercial rest areas (and for that matter the ones on the New Jersey Turnpike too) are “grandfathered in.” Maryland and other states had toll roads in place when the federal ban on commercial establishments on interstate highways was implemented and the ban does not apply to toll roads.
And the article’s conclusion is spot-on:
“If Virginia is looking to cut costs, the right move is not to shut down rest stops but to hand them over to private businesses that will be only too happy to make a bundle off travelers who are ever willing to pay a price to get where they’re going a little bit faster.”
The time has come to change the rules, allow states more flexibility in utilizing their assets and override the local business concerns of yore.
Allen Louderback touched on this topic in detail back in March.