PDT Staff Writer
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is seeking to lease to private organizations five of the state’s 104 rest stops, with the possibility of others in the future.
ODOT officials say the plan would general millions in new revenue and help fund construction projects.
Two rest stops being considered are on U.S. 50 in Athens County; two on U.S. 33 in Hocking County and one on U.S. 23 in Pickaway County.
“We believe there are several of the non-interstate rest areas that are good candidates for the conversion from state-owned and operated rest areas to leased travel plazas,” ODOT Press Secretary Steve Faulkner said. “This is the first step in looking at what the options are. We have an idea there is going to be strong market demand but we cannot be certain of that. If the interest is there it may allow us to consider adding additional rest areas down the road.”
ODOT says it spends $50 million a year maintaining the rest stops. With most of that cost coming from paying gas, water, electric and sewage bills, as well as mowing grass, resurfacing parking lots, improving buildings and paying for janitorial and housekeeping services.
“Rest areas are expensive to operate and maintain, and in some cases, they have become safety hazards to motorists traveling in our state,” ODOT Director Jerry Wray said. “If we can generate enough money to offset the costs and improve safety, Ohioans will be better off. Plus, generating much-needed new money will allow us to get shovels in the ground and begin construction much sooner on some of the major transportation projects that will help drive our state’s economy into the future.”
In 2011, ODOT upgraded the plumbing, electric, heating and cooling systems at the Scioto County rest stop on U.S. 23.
On Tuesday, the Ohio Conference of AAA Clubs endorsed ODOTs plan.
“Ohio has an extensive and high-quality network of highways that make it easy for both motorists and commercial traffic to move across our state. Anything we can do to expand services to highway users, without increasing taxes, only makes our roads safer and easier to use. This is the kind of innovative plan we think is in the best interest of motorists and we’re glad to see it moving forward,” said Thomas Dunlap, president of the Ohio Conference of AAA Clubs.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 208, or email@example.com.