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ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Commercializing rest stops may seem like good way to raise revenue for highways but the move could end up hurting local business communities.
National Association of Truck Stop Operators (NATSO) president and chief executive officer Lisa Mullings went before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Subcommittee on Highways and Transit today to urge members to oppose any move to amend or repeal the federal law banning commercial development on the interstate right-of-way. Any effort, she testified, represented government intrusion into the private sector and would adversely affect the more than 97,000 businesses located at the exits along the country's interstate system -- which could threaten 2.2 million jobs and slash funds for county governments.
"It is deceptively easy to mistake this issue as a pro-business initiative, a move to privatize rest area services," Mullings testified. "But this is not privatization. True privatization is transferring a service or function from the government to a private sector business to achieve comparable or superior results. The government is not in the business of selling food and fuel; the private sector is already meeting that need. This is a move to expand government, at a cost to businesses, county governments and consumers."
Under the original policy, Congress outlawed commercial activities at the rest areas to encourage competition and the growth of local communities near the interstates, according to NATSO. In citing a University of Maryland study, the association added that in the few states that operate commercial rest areas there are 50 percent fewer business at the exits.