UDOT is hosting the National Safety Rest Area Conference being held September 17 through 20 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The conference provides a venue for planners, vendors, public welcome center managers and maintenance providers from across the United States and Canada. Attendees meet and share best practices for planning, constructing and maintaining the buildings and picnic and tourism information spots that serve people who travel along the Interstate Highway system.
The NSRA is part of AASHTO’s Maintenance Sub Committee, and responsibility for organizing the conference is accomplished by state transportation agencies. This year, UDOT takes the lead with support from the Kentucky Department of Transportation. Besides breakout sessions focusing on aspects of planning and maintenance, the conference will also include a day-long tour of some of the rest areas in Utah.
The primary purpose Safety Rest Areas is to provide a place to take a break while traveling long distances. Since the Interstate system offered limited access, SRAs are a way to replace roadway parks and stores as a stopping point for travelers.
The first SRAs were built along with the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s and 60s, according to Rest Area History.org. “SRA structures and the sites on whole were to be both functionally and aesthetically satisfying, creating environments that were at once relaxing and engaging” by offering travelers a view of the local culture through architecture or even art installations. More than just a place to stop, eat and rest, “…these sites illustrate an important aspect of the American travel experience and specifically articulate our experience of travel as it was shaped by the Interstate era beginning in the 1950s.”
Like most SRAs across the country, UDOT SRAs provide the basics – toilet facilities and drinking water, and many have picnic areas and a place for travelers to pick up information about or maps of the areas. One of UDOT’s newest SRAs is a tribute to Utah’s railroad past. Tie Fork is modeled after a railroad round house and interpretive panels have snippets of area history.