The American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Virginia Trucking Association (VTA) congratulate Virginia Gov Bob McDonnell on reopening 19 safety rest areas along the commonwealth’s highways one day ahead of schedule. (Read the original coverage of the rest area closings)
McDonnell and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) officially reopened the final seven safety rest areas that had been closed in 2009 due to funding cuts, beating the April 15 deadline McDonnell imposed when he took office in January.
“We sincerely appreciate Governor McDonnell’s commitment to highway safety on the important issue of safety rest areas,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “Safety rest areas play a vital role in preventing fatigue in drivers of all vehicles and also provide the accommodations necessary for motorists while on the road.”
In 2009, ATA and the VTA objected to the previous administration’s plan to close 25 of 42 safety rest areas because there was already a severe shortage of truck parking. “It is simply beyond comprehension that Virginia would be willing to put lives at risk in order to balance the commonwealth’s budget,” Graves said in a letter to former Gov Timothy M Kaine. Safety rest areas are important for the safety of average motorists and professional truck drivers alike. Both need a safe location to park, said Graves.
Responding to that concern, Virginia’s previous administration somewhat offset the effect by scaling back the closures from 25 to just 19, replacing its two-hour time limit at safety rest areas with a “no overnight parking” policy and adding 225 truck parking spaces at the 23 areas that were not closed.
ATA and VTA strongly urged McDonnell during his campaign for governor to reconsider the closings. McDonnell responded by promising that he would, if elected, reopen the safety rest areas within three months of taking office. In January, the Commonwealth Transportation Board followed McDonnell’s call by reversing its June 2009 decision that reduced the number of VDOT safety rest areas and welcome centers from 42 to 23.
Eighteen facilities closed in July 2009, and the final facility—the Interstate 66 West Manassas Welcome Center—closed in September. Upon the current administration’s decision to restore safety rest areas, four reopened in mid-February and eight more in mid-March. Reopening of the final seven rest areas has restored all Virginia rest areas to full operations.